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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 12:50 GMT
Observers shun Bangladeshi vote
Protesters in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Protesters say planned elections will not be fair
The United Nations and European Union have said they are suspending election observer missions in Bangladesh.

A UN statement said: "The political crisis... has severely jeopardised the legitimacy of the electoral process."

The EU said conditions for a credible vote did not exist and its observers would leave Bangladesh by Sunday night.

Weeks of violence have preceded the 22 January general election, which a major alliance of parties is boycotting because of alleged bias.

The BBC's John Sudworth in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, says the announcements by the UN and EU are being seen as a strong signal from the international community to the caretaker government that the poll should be postponed.

UN concern

The EU said it was closing its election observer mission in the country with regret.

The United Nations is deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in the country, and urges all parties to refrain from the use of violence
UN statement

"Agreement on the conditions for the elections by the election stakeholders is a prerequisite for credible and meaningful elections and these do not currently exist," a statement said.

All of its long-term observers were being recalled to Dhaka to be flown home, the EU said, and an additional 130 who were due to arrive would not now be going.

The UN issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation" and was withdrawing all technical support to the electoral process.

It said it hoped the army would continue to play a neutral role and that "those responsible for enforcing the law (would) act with restraint and respect for human rights".

The decision to pull out follows that taken by two Washington-based election observer missions to do the same.

Our correspondent says that with polls now less than two weeks away the election process is in tatters and there is no sign of compromise.

The alliance led by the Awami League is refusing to take part, claiming the electoral register is incomplete, inaccurate and biased in favour of its rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which left office in October.

But the caretaker government insists the constitution does not allow it to suspend the election.

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