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US Sees Need for Compromise Among Bangladeshis to Ensure Legitimate Elections

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The top American envoy in Bangladesh is expressing optimism that the military-backed interim government will lift the state of emergency to permit free and fair elections. But the U.S. ambassador is also calling for compromise among the caretaker government, the military and the political parties in order for a dialogue to succeed as a prelude to the planned nationwide polls. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Dhaka.

U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty, over the past several days has been meeting various ministers of the caretaker government in Dhaka. The ambassador has been urging the military-backed government and key political parties to reach an accord to allow free and fair elections to take place.

In a VOA interview, Mr. Moriarty says compromise will be needed to break the current impasse.

"We don't have a precise formulation as to how the dialogue is going to go forward, who has to make what compromise," he said. "But we do feel strongly it is in the interest of all the sides.

The two key parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party, say they will not sit for a dialogue with the government unless their party leaders can participate. Both women, Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the BNP, are in custody facing trials on corruption charges. The two former prime ministers are among 170 people detained in the government's campaign to try to rid Bangladesh of its legacy of political corruption.

The caretaker government, which came to power nearly a year-and-a-half ago, has agreed to allow "indoor campaigning" leading up to planned December national parliamentary elections.

Ambassador Moriarty says, in order to ensure free and fair elections all restrictions on political activity will need to be lifted.

"That's why we're urging a full lifting of the state of emergency and frankly, I think, we're getting there," he said. "I think the government has already taken a few steps and I think they're going to be taking more."

Mr. Moriarty adds that the Embassy will take no direct role in the negotiations, declaring it an internal matter for Bangladeshis.

Elections had been scheduled for January of last year but were postponed amid street clashes and threats of boycotts. The current impasse stems from riots in October 2006 when the BNP prepared to turn over power to the caretaker government. The rival Awami League objected to the interim leadership, contending the caretakers were in league with the BNP. The turmoil continued for months and a state of emergency, enforced by the military, was declared on January 11 of last year.

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