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Strong start to Nepal polls: United Nations

The UN reports heavy early turnout in Nepal polls and only sporadic and relatively minor incidents of violence.

world Updated: Apr 10, 2008 15:38 IST

Landmark elections in Nepal appeared to get off to a strong start on Thursday with the United Nations reporting heavy early turnout and only sporadic and relatively minor incidents of violence.

"Early voter turnout seems to be quite heavy," Kieran Dwyer, the spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Nepal, told AFP.

"We are receiving reports, not confirmed by us in all cases, of some incidents involving violence in some parts of the country, but at the same time voting appears to be going smoothly in many, many parts of Nepal," he added.

Police and officials said voting had come to a halt in just a handful of around 21,000 polling booths -- an encouraging sign given earlier fears that violence would wreck the election.

In the west of the country, Maoist supporters burned down a polling booth, officials said, adding that 15 of them were arrested with three grenades.

Other unrest reported by police in various parts of the country included clashes between activists from other parties, the theft of ballot papers from one station and a small bomb.

There have so far been no reports of any deaths or injuries.

Security was tight across the Himalayan nation, following a string of killings and bombings as well as reports of widespread voter intimidation in the final days of campaigning.

Thursday's polls are the climax of a 2006 peace deal between Nepal's former rebel Maoists and mainstream political parties and will elect a body that will abolish the monarchy and rewrite the constitution.