Bangladesh says committed to December 18 vote

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government said Saturday it remained fully committed to hold a parliamentary election on December 18, and hoped all parties would take part, reported Reuters.

"We remain firm in our plan to hold the election on the due date (December 18)," government adviser (minister) Hossain Zillur Rahman said.

He added that if a congenial atmosphere prevailed ahead of the vote, the government would consider lifting emergency rule, imposed after widespread political violence before scheduled elections in January 2007.

He said the government hoped the election would be contested by all major parties, including those led by former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia.

Hasina heads the Awami League which has said it will take part in the December 18 polls, but Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its main ally are still undecided.

The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami have said emergency rule should be lifted immediately, and that leaders convicted or arrested for alleged corruption should be able to contest the vote.

Hasina and Khaleda, who alternated as prime minister of the south Asian country of more than 140 million people over 15 years until October 2006, were both arrested for alleged corruption, but have been freed after nearly a year behind bars.

They are likely key contenders in the coming polls, and without participation of their parties the results would not be credible or acceptable, analysts and diplomats have said.

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