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Proposed Bangladesh Leader Declines Post

The proposed head of Bangladesh's interim government has decided not to take up the post, amid deadly protests by opposition parties critical of his appointment.

Former Supreme Court chief justice K. M. Hasan was to have been sworn in as caretaker leader Saturday, to prepare for January elections. But a presidential spokesman Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury said Hasan informed officials he will not take over from outgoing Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

Earlier reports quoted a presidential spokesman as saying Hasan was too ill to appear for the swearing in ceremony, but the later announcement provided no details.

The main opposition Awami League had threatened to paralyze the country Saturday with a transport strike if Mrs. Zia chose the retired chief justice for the post. The opposition says Hasan is biased in favor of the government.

The standoff has sparked clashes between rival political activists that have left at least six people dead and 100 others injured.

Opposition protesters have blocked a key highway connecting the capital, Dhaka, with the southeastern port city of Chittagong.

The outgoing prime minister's final days in power have been marked by political turmoil. At least 24 politicians, including several lawmakers and ministers, defected from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party Thursday to start a new party.

Former president Badruddoza Chowdhury and Oli Ahmed, a former minister with the ruling party, head the newly formed Liberal Democratic Party. It accuses the government of widespread corruption.

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