The head of Bangladesh's military-backed interim government said Thursday, he hopes free and fair elections can be held by the end of 2008.

In a televised address to the nation, Fakhruddin Ahmed also said he would not stay in office any longer than necessary. He also said the election commission was fully independent.

Bangladesh was scheduled to hold elections on January 22. But the poll was postponed and a state of emergency imposed after violent street protests calling for electoral reforms.

Fakhruddin Ahmed took over as chief of the interim government. He has vowed to clean up Bangladesh's notoriously corrupt politics, detaining more than 100 politicians on graft charges.

In other news, opposition party officials say former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will extend her stay in the United States indefinitely over concerns about murder charges brought against her in Bangladesh.

Police charged Ms. Hasina, head of the opposition Awami League, and about 50 other politicians with murder on Wednesday for the deaths of rival protesters in October. She has denied the charges.

Ms. Hasina is in the United States on a private visit.