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Bangladesh Government Rules Out Dialogue With Political Parties


In Bangladesh, the interim government has ruled out the possibility of a dialogue with political parties. But as Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, political parties have welcomed a renewed pledge by the country's army chief to stay out of politics.

The Bangladesh law adviser Mainul Hosein told private television that the emergency caretaker government would not hold talks with political parties because this could affect the administration's neutral credentials.

He was responding to a proposal by the Awami League Party for direct discussions with the government to resolve "political issues."

Instead the interim government wants political parties to have a dialogue with the Election Commission, which plans to conduct polls by end of 2008.

A professor of political science at Dhaka University, Ataur Rahman, says the government wants to stay away from any direct dealings with the country's two main political alliances because their history of bitter relations would create new conflicts.

"Then what will happen is that there will be a controversy and also there will be allegations and counter allegations particularly when the politics in Bangladesh is so controversial, and the power struggle is so intense that sometimes the caretaker government may be misunderstood, and that may lead to more problems in peaceful transition of power," said Rahman.

The army-backed interim government took over in January after elections were canceled following months of political discord. It has promised to restore democracy by the end of next year.

There has been concern that the army may grab power in a country that has been ruled by the military for 15 years.

However, recent assertions by army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed that he has no intention to enter politics have reassured political parties.

The general said last week during a visit to Britain and the United States that the army is only helping the interim government fight corruption and organize free and fair elections.

Dhaka University's Rahman says it is difficult to say what will happen in the coming months, but so far it appears that the army will allow democracy to return.

"I think the military is trying not to be involved as far as possible. As far as I can say now, the military has no intention to play a direct role, other than what they are already playing in Bangladesh politics," added Rahman.

There have been a string of military coups in Bangladesh since it became independent in 1971.

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