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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 16:43 GMT
Bangladesh vote official departs
By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka

Rally by supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
Both sides have held large shows of strength
The interim government in Bangladesh has made new concessions to persuade the Awami League and its allies to participate in next month's election.

A spokesman for the government said that an election commissioner, SM Zakaria, has been requested to go "on leave" between now and the vote.

The Awami League and its allies argued that he was biased against them.

In November, Chief Election Commissioner MA Aziz "took leave" in similar circumstances after protests.

The Awami League alleged that he and Mr Zakaria openly favoured the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

'Acceptable measures'

A spokesman for the caretaker government responsible for overseeing the vote, Mahbubul Alam, said that the cabinet had made its decision because Mr Zakaria was the "bone of contention" between the rival political parties.

He said the election commission was also updating the voter list to make it free from flaws as demanded by the Awami League and its allies.

Bangladeshi troops on the streets of Dhaka
The government says troops have been deployed to stop disorder

Mr Alam said the caretaker government, headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed, now hoped that the measures would be acceptable to all political parties and they would participate in the election.

There has so far been no official reaction from the 14-party alliance led by the Awami League.

But the alliance leader, former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, earlier threatened to boycott the election if their demands for electoral reforms were not fulfilled.

The alliance has also called for a nationwide general strike on Thursday to press for its demands.

Meanwhile, the election commission has changed the election schedule again, keeping the voting date unchanged.

According to the new schedule, the last date for submitting nomination papers is 24 December.

The voting date is set for 22 January.

Dhaka crowds demand poll reforms
18 Dec 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh election date changed
07 Dec 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh strike sparks clashes
03 Dec 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh alliance stops protest
23 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh poll chief stands down
22 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Country profile: Bangladesh
01 Nov 06 |  Country profiles

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