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India hopes for free and fair elections in Bangladesh

Outgoing Indian envoy Veena Sikri expressed these sentiments while calling on Awami League chief and former PM Sheikh Hasina.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2006 11:43 IST

Reiterating confidence in the democratic traditions of Bangladesh, India has expressed the hope that the country would be able to hold "free and fair elections consistent with constitutional guidelines" in January.

Outgoing Indian High Commissioner Veena Sikri expressed these sentiments while calling on Awami League chief and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina as Bangladesh began settling down to governance by an interim government after four days of political violence.

"We value the democratic norms of Bangladesh. As a neighbour we are following closely the developments here. We are sure that Bangladeshi people are committed towards democracy and democratic tradition," Sikri was quoted by New Age newspaper Wednesday as saying.

Sikri had also called on former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia before the latter quit office.

While India has been cautious, US envoy Patricia Butenis, who also met Hasina, told mediapersons later that the four-day time given by the main opposition to the new administration was "not enough" to fulfill the list of 11 "demands".

She appealed for more time before the Awami League-led alliance launched a stir.

Hasina's aide Saber Hussain Chowdhury said these were "not demands", but "immediate tasks on hand" for President-cum-Chief Advisor Iajuddin Ahmed to fulfill.

He said the Awami League would resume its protest movement if Ahmed was "not cordial" enough to fulfill its demands.

Analysts fear more violence if the movement is resumed and political workers take to the streets.

Two more people were killed in clashes between the Awami League and its opponents, taking the toll to "at least 30," New Age said.

But reports said Dhaka and other major towns were getting back to normal.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed concern at the continuing political violence.

He appealed to the country's major political forces "to work together to find a common ground for the elections in the interest of democracy and the welfare of the entire nation," the UN office here said.

Trade between India and Bangladesh resumed at Benapole after it had come to a standstill due to the volatile situation last week, said a report from Jessore on the border with India's West Bengal state.

Also returning home were hundreds of holidaymakers from India who had been stranded for want of transport and suffered acute distress, worry and discomfort.

First Published: Nov 01, 2006 11:43 IST