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Thai PM Offers Nov. Election if Protesters Accept Reconciliation

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has offered to hold parliamentary elections on November 14 if anti-government protesters occupying the streets of Bangkok accept his reconciliation plan.

Mr. Abhisit made the offer in a nationally televised address Monday in response to demands by the protesters, known as Red Shirts, for early elections.

He said the November election date is conditional on the Red Shirts agreeing to terms of a reconciliation plan which were not immediately available.

Speaking in parliament earlier Monday, Mr. Abhisit said his proposed solutions to the crisis will try to incorporate ideas from all sectors of society, not just politicians and protesters.

Mr. Abhisit is under intense domestic pressure to end the stalemate with thousands of Red Shirts who have occupied Bangkok's main commercial district since mid-March. Fighting between the protesters and security forces has killed at least 27 people.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Monday the government may agree to dissolve parliament if there is no longer a risk of violence. Mr. Abhisit previously proposed to hold a vote by the end of 2010, an offer the Red Shirts dismissed.

On Sunday, Mr. Abhisit said authorities were preparing to clear the area occupied by the Red Shirts, who have forced hotels and shops to close for weeks. The protest has left tens of thousands of people out of work or facing bankruptcy.

Mr. Abhisit also dismissed calls from government supporters to declare martial law to allow troops to remove the protesters.

The Red Shirts are mostly rural poor and urban working class activists who support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup on allegations of corruption.

They view Prime Minister Abhisit's government as a puppet of Bangkok's elite and the military, and accuse it of taking office illegally in 2008.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.