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EU asks Bangladesh to hold vote

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government should hold elections as soon as possible as well as make progress on battling corruption, says EU.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2007 19:17 IST

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government should hold elections as soon as possible as well as make progress on battling corruption, the European Union said on Saturday.

The interim government, which took over in January, has vowed to clean widespread corruption from politics before holding parliamentary elections around the end of 2008.

"The EU supports the drive against crime and corruption as a means of embedding good governance and politics, but it also wants to see parliamentary election as soon as possible in 2008 after essential reforms," Andreas Michaelis, leader of the visiting EU delegation, told a news conference.

More than 170 senior politicians including Tareque Rahman, elder son of the most recent prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, former ministers from both the governments of Khaleda and her arch rival Sheikh Hasina have been detained in the anti-corruption drive.

In a latest move on Saturday the authorities tightened security around the Dhanmandi residence of Hasina. An unhappy Hasina reacted, saying: "Why is this restriction? People love to meet me, I also like to meet them."

The EU troika, which also comprised representatives from incoming EU president Portugal and the European Commission, arrived in Dhaka on Wednesday for a four-day visit to assess the political situation and performance of the interim government towards restoring democracy, as well as preparations for the next national election.

They met political leaders and Fakhruddin Ahmed, head of the interim government.

"EU welcomes efforts ... to create appropriate conditions for the holding of free and fair elections for ensuring sustainable democracy," said Michaelis, from the Foreign Ministry of current EU president Germany.

The interim administration imposed a state of emergency cancelling election scheduled for Jan 22 following deadly political violence between Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Hasina's Awami League.

The troika stressed the need for respect for human rights during the emergency and said it was looking forward to the early establishment of a National Human Rights Commission.

The interim government in March agreed in principle to ratify a UN convention on human rights.

The EU takes around 52 per cent of Bangladesh's exports, amounting to over 5.0 billion euros in 2006.

The EU and its member states gave Bangladesh around 413 million euros last year in development assistance.

An EU Election Observation Mission deployed in Bangladesh, ahead of January's aborted election, was suspended as the "prevailing condition were not conducive", Michaelis said.