UN says Bangladesh polls appear on right track
By JULHAS ALAM,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 36 minutes ago
DHAKA, Bangladesh - A U.N. assessment team says preparations for Bangladesh's elections appear to be on the right track and it is convinced the military-backed interim government will lift a state of emergency before next month's polls.
Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January last year. Elections scheduled that month were scrapped when President Iajuddin Ahmed declared the emergency measures to quell weeks of street violence over electoral reforms between supporters of rival former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. The violence left more than 30 people dead.
The U.N. assessment team, which has been in Dhaka for a week, is to report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban, who visited Bangladesh earlier this month, sent the team to meet with government advisers, the army chief and leaders of all major political parties to assess the environment for the Dec. 29 elections.
"The key point of our report will probably be that things are on the right track, and all major political parties will take part in the election," Francesc Vendrell, head of the assessment team, told The Associated Press.
Vendrell said the U.N. was looking beyond election day and wants to engage both the winners and the losers in a dialogue for a meaningful return to democracy.
"The most important thing is that the losers accept the election result and participate in the parliament," he said.
He said he received the impression that the state of emergency would be lifted fully.
The government recently relaxed the emergency rule and recalled the army to cantonments from camps across the country.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, an influential government adviser, said Saturday that emergency rule would be fully lifted soon, but did not specify a date.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission said Saturday that the military would be redeployed on Dec. 24 to assist the civil administration in maintaining order ahead of the elections. They will remain in place until Dec. 31.
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