Lift emergency in Bangladesh: US

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Dhaka, May 9: The US today said state of emergency has to be lifted to hold credible elections in Bangladesh and no deviation from the polls set for December will be accepted. ''Election must be held to get back to a democratically-elected government. We could not certainly count other deviation or any other path,'' US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, told a press conference at the American Club.

Mr Boucher, who was here on a two-day visit, said, ''We don't think good election is possible under the emergency, which has to be lifted. It needs open political activities, meetings, rallies, debates and open information to have a good election. We have been pushing to lift the emergency, which is necessary to have credible elections.'' Bangladeshi President Iajuddin Ahmed imposed the state of emergency in January last year to quell political violence over aborting a parliamentary election.

The incumbent caretaker government promised to hold the stalled elections by December this year.

Asked if he foresaw any military take over after his meeting with the army chief Lieutenant General Moeen U Ahmed today, Mr Boucher said, ''No, only path for Bangladesh is to restore democracy and have an election. We would not accept any deviation from that path.

We will work with everybody to make sure Bangladesh can achieve that.'' He said the US goal was to support democracy and the democratic election to ensure over all stability in Bangladesh which is in the interest of the US and the Bangladeshi people, including the army.

About the US position on major parties abstaining from the elections unless their leaders were released, he said, ''The US is not involved in political parties. We are not taking sides, we are not choosing a winner and we are not supporting any faction of a political party or any individual. Our goal is to support democratic process and the people to get a chance to decide through the polls.'' About former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia's trials, Mr Boucher said there were charges against the leaders and the government needed to follow due process of law and transparent trials, which is a different matter from the election process.

He welcomed the dialogue between the government and the parties, expressing hope that it would produce an understanding on conducting the elections.

On the issue of terrorism, Mr Boucher said Bangladesh has done well last year in its fight against terrorism and the efforts needed to continue to have stability and economic progress. He said an elected government could be a solid foundation to continue to fight against terrorism and improve the human rights situation in the country.

In reply to a question, he said there was a possibility of disruption of the election process by extremist groups and vigil was needed against extremists and terrorists. He assured US support to Bangladesh to counter terrorism.


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