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Central & South Asia
Democracy talks open in Bangladesh
Election body plans dialogue with 15 major political parties before holding polls.
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2007 09:14 GMT
Several prominent leaders like Khaleda Zia
have been arrested [AFP]

Bangladeshi authorities have opened talks with major political parties in a bid to steer the country down the path from emergency rule to democracy.
 
Officials said the talks centre around efforts to revamp voter lists and ensure there is no repeat of the crisis earlier this year when elections were cancelled due to allegations of vote-rigging.
Sakhawat Hossain, the country's election commissioner, said: "In the next three months, the commission will hold meetings with 15 major parties."
 
Hossain said that Wednesday's meeting was with an Islamist party.
Reforms pledged
 
Bangladesh's interim government has promised that its reform programme should lead to the staging of new polls before the end of 2008.

  

"The talks are part of the road map to democracy," Hossain said, adding the commission would also discuss reforms including party funding, a code of conduct and the eligibility of candidates.

  

Hossain said the country's two main parties, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League, have also been invited for talks.

  

A so-called 'reformist' faction of the BNP - opposed to jailed party leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia - and the Awami League, which is led by another jailed ex-premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed, have agreed to take part.

  

But the faction led by Zia's loyalists has not yet decided whether it will take part, Hannan Shah, Zia's aide, said.

  

The interim government came to power on January 11 after months of violent protests by opposition parties over attempts by the BNP to rig planned elections, leading the president to cancel the polls and impose a state of emergency.

Source:
Agencies
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