The government has also withdrawn a ban on Hasina from entering the country.

 

The government statement followed a cabinet meeting to decide the fate of the two leaders.

 

Big question

 

A minister said earlier that the meeting would discuss "whether the two leaders are going to stay in the country or be absent for a while".

 

The minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, also denied that the government had been trying to compel the two party leaders to leave Bangladesh, but said Zia could face corruption charges if she remained.

 

"There is huge anxiety, if she (Sheikh Hasina) comes back. What will happen? Last year during political violence we saw people dancing on dead bodies"

A Bangladesh minitser speaking on condition of anonymity

Hasina has already had murder and extortion accusations filed against her, although she has vowed to return and fight them in person.

 

The military-backed interim government had been trying to exile both women as part of its campaign to clean up the country's notoriously corrupt politics.

 

Party officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

On Sunday, it blocked Hasina from returning from London after

 

declaring her a threat to national security.

 

Her party, the Awami League, held power between 1996 and 2001.

 

Zia had reportedly agreed to go into exile in return for leniency for her two sons, who face corruption allegations.

 

But attempts to send her to Saudi Arabia hit a stumbling block early this week after the authorities there became reluctant to accept an unwilling guest.

 

The two women have held power alternately since 1991 and stand accused of misrule that led to widespread violence and a political crisis in January.

 

The new government has pledged to hold elections by the end of 2008 after implementing far-reaching reforms to get democracy back on track.