Bangladesh's military-backed government has announced it will lift the state of emergency ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for December 29.
Government minister Hossain Zillur Rahman said Wednesday the emergency will be fully withdrawn on December 17, after restrictions on holding political meetings and campaign rallies is lifted this Friday.
The country's two main political parties - Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia and the Awami League of former prime minister Sheikh Hasina - welcomed the move.
Both parties had campaigned vigorously for an end to the emergency to allow free election campaigning.
Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January 2007, when the military intervened to stop months of political violence. The elections are designed to return the country to democratic rule.
The elections originally were scheduled for December 18, but were pushed back 11 days in response to a demand by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.