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  World Expresses Shock at Nepal Deaths

The Associated Press
Saturday, June 2, 2001; 2:44 p.m. EDT

KATMANDU, Nepal –– Expressions of shock and grief from around the world poured into this Himalayan nation Saturday at the news that Nepal's crown prince had massacred the royal family before shooting himself.

Crown Prince Dipendra, 29, opened fire Friday night in the royal palace, killing his parents, his brother and sister, and four other royal family members before shooting himself, according to the government.

Dipendra remained on life support in a military hospital Saturday, as Nepal's State Council declared his uncle, Prince Gyanendra, acting king.

President Bush expressed dismay Saturday, saying his prayers were with the people of the mountainous Asian kingdom.

"I am deeply saddened and shocked at King Birendra's untimely death," a White House statement said. "I also mourn the loss of Queen Aiswarya and other family members and extend my deepest sympathies to the king's extended family."

Pope John Paul II sent a condolence telegram to Prince Gyanendra, saying that he prayed for "divine blessings of comfort and peace upon all who are in mourning."

In New Delhi Saturday, India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh declared three days of state mourning, saying "India grieves with Nepal."

"As a close neighbor and friend, India conveys its heartfelt condolences to the mourning nation," he said in an official statement. "Our heart goes out to them and the Queen Mother in this hour of grief."

Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, called the late king "a popular monarch who made a singular contribution to the democratic evolution of Nepal."

"King Birendra was held in high esteem in Pakistan for his statesmanship, for safeguarding Nepal's sovereignty and national dignity," Musharraf said.

On Saturday, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles "are deeply shocked and saddened" by the massacre in Nepal, ordering flags on all royal palaces, residences, and government buildings to be at half-staff.

"The message speaks of the shock and sadness at the news and of the long-standing and valued relationship between the two countries and families," a spokesman said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said flags were at half-staff at an army barracks in Kent, southeastern England, where more than 1,000 Gurkhas, the legendary Nepalese fighters, are based.

As in Britain, Nepal is governed by a prime minister and King Birendra, 55, was a figurehead who presided over ceremonial occasions.

The now-slain Birendra became the constitutional monarch of the small Himalayan nation after he was stripped of power in 1990 through a popular people's movement.

A military official said the shooting was caused by a dispute over the marriage of the prince because his mother, the queen, reportedly objected to his choice of bride.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered his condolences, as did regional neighbors Singapore and Bangladesh.

From Australia, Governor-General William Deane, Britain's royal representative in Sydney, expressed the nation's sympathy.

Deane had met Prince Dipendra several times during last year's Olympic Games.

"He came across as an engaging young man with high hopes for his country," Sir William said in a statement.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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