Military chief assures UN chief of ensuring free,fair elections

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Dhaka, Nov 2 (UNI) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Army Chief of Staff General Moeen U Ahmed assured him of ensuring free, fair and credible Parliamentary polls in Bangladesh on December 18 without any intervention in the political process.

Mr Ban said this while addressing a pre-departure media conference after having a series of meetings with leaders of the caretaker government, political parties, civil society and military.

Asked about the UN position on lifting the state of emergency as being demanded by political parties, he said he was well aware of the concern and urged the parties to resolve the matter through discussion with the government.

''The government must ensure that the fundamental rights and freedom necessary for a free, fair and credible election are guranteed. And it must ensure that the elections take place in a peaceful and secure environment,'' the UN chief said.

''This is my message to all I met. I saw clearly that democracy belongs to Bangladesh; there is no insurmountable obstacle to ushering in a better, brighter, more sustainable democracy after the elections in December,'' he added.

Mr Ban said, ''The December ballot is a historic opportunity.

Now is the moment to stand against the polarisation and violence that have characterised past elections.'' The UN secretary general urged political parties to play responsible role and accept fair competition based on democratic rules as well as respect the results and extend full cooperation among the parties.

He said UN will dispatch a small team of highly capable and prominent individuals to Bangladesh in coming weeks to assess the conduct of the elections and report to him.

He added the incoming government would need to reach out to the opposition in Parliament.

The opposition must engage constructively with the new government to consolidate the reforms begun by the current caretaker government, particularly those dedicated to fighting corruption, he suggested.

UNI XC RJ RAI2000

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