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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Bangladesh exile plan 'delayed'
Khaleda Zia in a file photo from January 2007
Khaleda Zia's departure to Saudi Arabia is now 'on hold'
An attempt by the military-backed government in Bangladesh to exile the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been delayed, officials say.

It was hoped to fly her to exile in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi authorities have delayed issuing a visa.

They say there are concerns that she is not leaving Bangladesh of her own free will. A number of other countries are now being approached to accept her.

Bangladesh is under a state of emergency, imposed in January.


The military-backed interim government says it is attempting a major reform of the political system.

But it argues this will be impossible while Ms Zia and her political rival, Sheikh Hasina, are still on the scene.

Sheikh Hasina was prevented from returning to the country from London on Sunday.

Sheikh Hasina in a file photo from December 2005
Sheikh Hasina says she is determined to return

She has vowed to return to Bangladesh to clear her name of murder and extortion charges and participate in elections.

Correspondents say that efforts by the authorities to exile Khaleda Zia have been further complicated by reports that she is recovering from illness at home.

Her aides told the Reuters news agency that she has now "pulled out" of a reported deal with the interim government to go into political exile with most of her family members.

"She is improving but still has some problems with low blood pressure and arthritis pain in her knees," her personal physician, Mahtab Uddin, told Reuters.

Doctors are reported to have ordered that she rest for a few more days.

Witnesses say the level of security had been reduced around Ms Zia's home in Dhaka, where she has been under virtual house arrest for more than two weeks.

"Government pressure to send Khaleda Zia abroad has subsided considerably," Hannan Shah, a senior leader of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) told a local television channel on Tuesday.

Ms Zia's eldest son and heir apparent, Tareque Rahman, senior joint secretary-general of the BNP, has been detained on extortion charges.

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