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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2007, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
No B'desh polls 'for 18 months'
Bangladeshis in January reading about the state of emergency
A state of emergency was declared in January
It will take at least 18 months before new elections can be called in Bangladesh, the country's chief election commissioner says.

ATM Shamsul Huda said the delay was needed to allow time to prepare new voting lists and new electoral laws.

The current army-backed interim government postponed elections, which were due in January, after months of street protests and violence.

The US has called for a clear timetable on the restoration of democracy.

At present all political activity is banned. Dozens of senior politicians and associates have been arrested on corruption charges.

The government has vowed not to hold new elections until it has cleared up corruption.

'Make it public'

Mr Huda made his comments to journalists in the capital, Dhaka.

His colleague, Shakhwat Hossain gave more details about the decision.

"It is a huge task and we want to do it the best way possible. The United Nations is helping us with consultants and financing of the huge project," he said, the AFP news agency reports.

"We are taking time because we don't want to hold farcical elections."

The commission is also asking the government to lift its ban on indoor political meetings.

On Tuesday US ambassador Patricia Butenis said the people of Bangladesh needed to know when they would next be able to vote.

Troops on patrol in Dhaka
The interim government is backed by the military

"We understand that the timeline depends on when the electoral reforms will be carried out, but again I urged them to have a projection so the government can make it public," Ms Butenis said.

Earlier in the week the head of the army said that Bangladesh should not go back to being an "elective democracy".

Lt-Gen Moeen U Ahmed said that democracy in Bangladesh had so far led to corruption, violations of human rights and criminalisation threatening the state's survival.

But he did not elaborate on what kind of a system should be introduced as replacement.

Elections were scheduled to be held in Bangladesh on 22 January.

But after weeks of political violence, they were postponed and an emergency declared.

The country is currently being run by an army-backed interim government headed by former central bank chief, Fakhurddin Ahmed.

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