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Bangladesh Oppositon blockade enters third day

Talks are due to resume to end violent political protests over an election official accused of favoring the outgoing government.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 14:03 IST

Talks were due to resume on Tuesday to end violent political protests over a Bangladesh election official accused of favoring the outgoing government as a nationwide opposition blockade entered its third day.

A caretaker government in place to organise the January polls met opposition leaders but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The main opposition Awami League and its 13 leftist allies want chief election commissioner MA Aziz sacked, accusing him of making the polls a foregone conclusion by drawing up an electoral list with 10 million fake voters.

"We have told the caretaker government to reconstitute the election commission. That is our demand.

We will continue our nationwide blockade," opposition alliance spokesman Abdul Jalil told reporters late on Monday.

The interim government was due to meet representatives of the other main parties later Tuesday including the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

One man died and dozens were injured on Monday in a clash between opposition supporters and riot police in the capital Dhaka.

Thousands of opposition activists again held rallies on Tuesday in the capital Dhaka and blocked highways linking the country's main cities, raising concerns about food and other supplies, police said, adding no violence was reported.

Cities were being supplied with food and other essential items through overnight deliveries, and ferries on the delta nation's many rivers were not disrupted, police added.

Police and security forces were on high alert across the country in case of clashes between supporters of the Awami League and the BNP, which was also holding nationwide rallies on Tuesday.

"We have deployed an additional 5,000 policemen alone in (southwestern) Khulna division to prevent any clashes between the rival parties," said divisional police chief Mohammad Mezbah-Unnabi.

Deliveries to and from the country's main southeastern Chittagong port were suspended for a third consecutive day.

"It's a catastrophic situation, the port is congested with thousands of containers as we have been able to unload them from ships as there is no way we can transport them across the country," said port chairman Shahadat Hossain.

The opposition has said free and fair elections cannot be held with Aziz in place, and has threatened to boycott the polls if he is not removed.

Four days of clashes between rival parties from October 27 left 25 people dead as the opposition staged protests against the government's choice for the post of head of the caretaker government.

The opposition said it would not accept former Supreme Court judge KM Hasan as the interim chief, accusing the former BNP official of being politically biased in favour of the outgoing government.

After the protests led to him declining the post, president Iajuddin Ahmed named himself as head of the temporary government on October 29.

The Awami League agreed to end its protests, saying they would be resumed if the president failed to prove his neutrality as head of the non-party administration by sacking Aziz.

The party called fresh street protests and an indefinite transport blockade from Sunday after its demand was not met.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's BNP led the country's four-party Islamist-allied government until its mandate ran out on October 27. The caretaker government took over two days later.

First Published: Nov 14, 2006 14:03 IST