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Bangladesh president to appoint interim Govt

Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed is expected to appoint a 10-person interim administration to oversee the national elections.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 18:34 IST

President Iajuddin Ahmed was expected to appoint a 10-person interim administration on Monday to oversee national elections, Ahmed's office said, a day after he appointed himself Bangladesh's temporary leader to end days of deadly rioting.

Ahmed planned to invite 10 advisers to join the caretaker government, presidential press secretary Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury said on Monday.

He did not elaborate. Meanwhile, the president urged all political parties to help him ensure that the elections, due in January, are free and fair.

"We are determined to hold free and fair election to parliament," Ahmed said in a televised speech late on Sunday.

"I urge all political parties to extend cooperation to us."

Outgoing Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and leaders of her four-party coalition government addressed their supporters at a rally in downtown Dhaka, the national capital, on Monday.

Their main rivals, a 14-party alliance headed by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, planned to stage a similar rally on Friday.

Zia, who heads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, condemned the recent political violence, and called for all parties to participate in the next elections.

At least 27 people died in two days of violent street protests over the former government's appointment of an ex-chief justice to lead the interim administration.

In a bid to end the riots, Ahmed installed himself as leader of the country's caretaker government on Sunday.

The Opposition previously rejected Ahmed, saying he was an unacceptable choice.

But Opposition head Sheikh Hasina on Sunday took a wait-and-see stance when Ahmed announced he would head the caretaker government himself.

"The president should have appointed another person as the head of the caretaker government instead of himself," Hasina, a former prime minister, told reporters.

"However, we hope that the president will act neutral and impartial in conducting the next general election. We will keep him under watch."

Ahmed does not belong to any party, but he was elected president as a candidate of Zia's party.

Ahmed was sworn in as Bangladesh's chief adviser Sunday night to replace Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, whose government finished its five-year term on Friday.

It was constitutionally required to transfer power to an interim administration that will lead the country through the national elections in January.

There was no sign of violence in Dhaka Monday, and traffic began to return to the streets of the capital.

Nevertheless, an opposition-sponsored blockade of roads continued for the fourth consecutive day disrupting Dhaka's links with rest of the country.

No fresh violence was reported on Monday morning. "We will do out best to keep law and order," said a police official in Dhaka, on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Bangladesh's opposition on Friday launched protests to demand that a nonpartisan figure be named interim leader, rejecting the choice of retired Chief Justice KM Hasan, a former member of Zia's party, saying he was too close to the government.

The protests sparked days of clashes that left 27 people dead and hundreds injured. Hasan declined the post on Saturday, after deadly riots were under way.

Opposition politicians, lead by Hasina's Awami League coalition, have accused Zia's government of trying to rig the elections, and while Zia attended the swearing-in ceremony at the president's office, Hasina did not.

The current crisis has paralyzed the country's transport links, threatened its economy and led to increasing worries that the military could step in to seize power.

Bangladesh, where nearly half of the country's 144 million people live on less than $1 per day, has a long history of political unrest.

It has spent more than 15 years under military rule since it broke away from Pakistan in 1971, political killings occur frequently and, in recent years, an Islamic insurgency has further unsettled the political scene.

First Published: Oct 30, 2006 18:34 IST