US official to hold talks in Bangladesh on elections

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DHAKA, Sep 17 (Reuters) A US official will hold talks with Bangladesh leaders tomorrow on plans by the country's army-backed interim administration to hold elections late next year.

Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since January after an election scheduled for that month was postponed. The administration has promised to hold elections by late 2008 after completing a campaign against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

The United States has repeatedly urged the government to stick to its election roadmap and not delay elections beyond 2008.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs John A. Gastright.Jr will hold two days of talks with officials, an embassy statement said.

''During his visit, he will hold discussion with senior government officials and members of civil society on a wide-range of bilateral issues, in particular, progress on the roadmap towards democratic elections by the end of 2008,'' the statement said.

More then 170 political leaders, including two former prime ministers, Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, have been detained on charges of corruption and misuse of power.

Bangladesh is also expected to seek special financial assistance from the US during the talks.

Gastright who is responsible Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan affairs, last visited the country in December 2006.

REUTERS SKB PM1616

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