Bangladesh's Awami League said on Wednesday it would not join talks with the army-backed interim government on elections planned for this year unless its leader, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, is freed from detention.
The decision by the Awami League, one of the country's two main political parties, is a setback for the administration's efforts to organise a credible election promised for December, experts said.
"We have decided not to join the dialogue while Sheikh Hasina is in jail," said Ashraful Islam, acting general-secretary of the party, after a three-day meeting of party leaders.
Hasina was detained in July 2007 to face charges of graft and abuse of power. She says she is innocent.
"Only after her release, we will decide on whether to take part in elections due in December," Ashraful said.
A powerful faction of the Bangladesh Nationalist party is also considering a boycott of the talks with the government because its leader and another former prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, is also under detention, a party leader said.
Khaleda and Hasina are among more than 170 political figures under detention as part of a crackdown on corruption that the government launched soon after taking over in January 2007.
"After Awami League we are likely to take an identical decision over the talk offer," a leader of the BNP faction loyal to Khaleda said.
The BNP has been riven by infighting with one group supporting talks with the government for the conduct of elections.