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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 18:41 GMT
Bangladesh poll chief stands down
Effigies of Mr Aziz were burnt by protesters

The chief election commissioner of Bangladesh has agreed to step aside, the country's president has said in a televised address to the nation.

The commissioner, MA Aziz, was at the centre of demonstrations staged by the Awami League party and its allies.

They accuse him of bias towards the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). President Iajuddin Ahmed said Mr Aziz would go on leave for three months.

He said that he hoped that Bangladesh would now return to normality.

Political stalemate

"He has agreed to go on three months' leave in the greater interest of the nation," President Ahmed said in a late night broadcast on Wednesday.

The president said that he hoped Mr Aziz's departure would end weeks of protests by the 14-party alliance.

Police confront protesters in Dhaka
Running battles took place in Dhaka for a third day

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says that his leave of absence is likely to help end the current political stalemate in Bangladesh.

Thousands of supporters of the Awami League and its allies again took to the streets in Dhaka on Wednesday to demand his resignation.

Fresh violence broke out as a nationwide transport blockade to demand his resignation entered its third day.

Bangladesh is being run by a caretaker government until elections due in January.

Earlier on Wednesday, thousands of supporters of the 14-party alliance led by the Awami League heard reports that Mr Aziz did not turn up at his office for work in the morning.

The crowds began celebrating by singing songs and beating drums.

Cut off

The Awami League accused Mr Aziz of bias towards the BNP of former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, as soon as the interim government took power in October.

Protesters in Dhaka
The protests meant travel between towns was almost impossible

He denied the allegations and refused to step down.

Our correspondent says that it is now likely that the Awami League and its allies will lift the blockade of the capital, which has been cut off from the rest of the country for the last three days.

But analysts warn that while the immediate crisis may be over, further uncertainty still lies ahead.

The Awami League still has many more election reform demands, while the BNP is urging the interim government led by President Ahmed to stand firm.

Police say that a man died in hospital in the northern town of Bogra on Wednesday after being severely beaten during a clash between supporters of the BNP and the Awami League.

Several others were injured in the clash, in which a number of small bombs were set off.

The prices of essential food in major cities and towns across the country has risen, even though food supply trucks can usually beat the blockade by travelling overnight.

Strike again paralyses Bangladesh
21 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Fifty hurt in Bangladesh clashes
20 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh poll chief to stay on
06 Nov 06 |  South Asia
B'desh opposition renews deadline
03 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh approaches zero hour
05 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Timeline: Bangladesh
06 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
28 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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