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Bangladesh President Sworn In as Head of Caretaker Government

In Bangladesh, the president has been sworn in as head of the country's interim government, after main political parties failed to agree on a candidate. But it is uncertain if the appointment will calm political tensions in the country, where disagreement on the issue has sparked deadly clashes that have killed 22 people and injured hundreds in recent days.

President Iajuddin Ahmed was sworn in as head of an interim government during a brief, televised ceremony held at the presidential palace in Dhaka. Diplomats and senior officials attended the function, but the opposition Awami League party stayed away.

President Ahmed takes over the reins of government from Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to oversee elections in January. He took the office after talks with political parties failed to produce a consensus on who should take the post. It is an issue that has fueled deep political tensions, and sparked deadly clashes in the country.

The earlier candidate chosen by the government to take the job stepped aside Saturday, after strong protests by opposition parties, which said he was biased in favor of the ruling party, and could not ensure fair polls.

The former ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party has endorsed the president's decision to take charge of the interim government, saying he has acted in accordance with the constitution.

But the Awami League has opposed President Ahmed's takeover, and says he has violated the constitution by appointing himself for the job.

Political observers say it is likely that the opposition will press ahead with a program of protests and strikes that it had planned if a candidate that they support is not appointed.

The protests have gripped Dhaka since Friday, when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's five-year term ended. More than 20 people have been killed in the street clashes and demonstrations held by opposition activists across the country, despite tight security.

The caretaker government system aims to prevent ruling parties from rigging polls by appointing a neutral, non-party administration to supervise them. But, this time, the transition has become the center of a political storm.