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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 December 2006, 16:43 GMT
Bangladesh strike sparks clashes
A car that defied the strike is set on fire in Dhaka
Cars that defied the strike were burnt in Dhaka
One person was killed and more than 50 injured in Bangladesh as supporters of rival political groups clashed during a nationwide transport strike.

The violence took place in Sylhet in the north-east, where fighting broke out between people at rival rallies.

It comes as the country's two main political blocks are deadlocked over upcoming elections.

One of them, the Awami League, ordered the transport stoppage in a bid to force electoral reform.

The Awami League and its allies are also demanding the resignation of the head of the country's interim government, President Iajuddin Ahmed.

They say he is biased towards the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

'Stones and bombs'

This is the third time the transport system has been shut down in a month.

Schools and businesses in the capital, Dhaka, were closed and 20,000 police were said to be on the streets. Roads and train lines were blocked.

Public life has been stopped and all transport links have been severed
Khan Sayeed Hasan

Thousands of Awami League activists marched through the city, chanting slogans.

Most of the violence took place in Sylhet district, 190 km (120 miles) north-east of Dhaka.

"Supporters of the parties threw stones and small bombs at each other at each other and exchanged gunfire," police official Saffaet Hossen told the French news agency AFP.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, he said, and a BNP activist died from a bullet wound.

In Dhaka, protestors vandalised and set fire to cars whose owners defied the strike, ATN Bangla TV reported.

Areas all over the country were affected by the stoppage.

"Public life has been stopped and all transport links have been severed," Khan Sayeed Hasan, a police official in northwest Rajshahi region, told AFP.

The Awami League and its allies say roads and railways will remain blocked until their demands are met.

More talks

President Iajuddin Ahmed
The Awami League wants Mr Ahmed to step aside

These demands also include the removal of some election commissioners - who they say are biased - and changes to the voter role before elections in January.

Yesterday Mr Ahmed held talks with Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina, as well as BNP head Khaleda Zia, but failed to resolve the political deadlock.

He met today with his temporary cabinet and after the meeting council member Mahbubul Alam said more talks were planned.

"We will sit again with the leaders of the Awami League and BNP. We have some messages and then we will discuss the responses of the leaders," he said.

But, says the BBC's Roland Buerk in Dhaka, such is the bitter hatred between the two women few are hopeful that there will be a breakthrough soon.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Cars are set alight as political supporters clash



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