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Zia agrees to leave Bangladesh by April 22

The former premier is one of the highest-profile figures to be targeted by emergency-ruled interim government.

world Updated: Apr 18, 2007 13:58 IST

Bangladesh's last prime minister Khaleda Zia has agreed to demands from the country's military-backed authorities that she leave by April 22, an aide said on Wednesday.

Zia is one of the highest-profile figures to be targeted by emergency-ruled Bangladesh's interim government, in the midst of a major crackdown on corruption and clean-up of the country's political system.

"She has been asked to leave the country by April 22," a close aide told the agency on condition he not be named. He added she would leave the country for Saudi Arabia before the deadline on Sunday.

Officials and close aides to Zia said earlier she had agreed to leave quietly in return for leniency for her two sons, both of whom faced graft and extortion charges.

The Amar Desh Bengali-language daily, which is owned by Zia's political secretary, reported on Wednesday that she would leave with the family of her younger son Arafat Rahman.

The Ittefaq newspaper also said Zia, 61, and six members of her family had received visas from the Saudia Arabian embassy.

Zia was prime minister until her five-year term ended in October and together with her arch rival Sheikh Hasina Wajed has been blamed for steering the country into political chaos.

The two women have ruled the country alternately since democracy was reintroduced in 1991.

A military-backed interim government took power in January after President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency and cancelled planned elections following months of political violence between loyalists of the two women.

An ensuing crackdown has seen dozens of top officials from Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Sheikh Hasina's Awami League arrested. Zia herself has been under virtual house arrest since last week.

First Published: Apr 18, 2007 13:55 IST