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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Bangladesh parties reopen offices
Fakhruddin Ahmed
Mr Ahmed has promised to hold elections as soon as possible
Political parties in Bangladesh have reopened their offices after the interim government announced the easing of an eight-month ban on politics.

The interim government has said parties can now hold meetings in community centres, offices, halls or hotels, but not in the open.

It has also promised that democracy would be restored by end of 2008.

The military-backed interim government has ruled Bangladesh since January using emergency powers.

Hundreds of politicians, including two former prime ministers - Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League - have been arrested on corruption charges.

The interim government says that elections cannot be held until corruption is tackled.

Upbeat

"We welcome it. It's a right move and we feel assured," Awami League party acting president, Zillur Rahman, was quoted by news agency AFP as saying.

Other major parties were also upbeat about the government's decision and said they had restarted work.

But loyalists of Mrs Zia's BNP said they were prevented from going to work.

Protests in Dhaka
Last month's protests by students turned violent

"The government said the ban on indoor politics is now over. But the police did not allow us to open the office," Khandaker Delwar Hossain, BNP secretary general, told AFP.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, the head of Bangladesh's interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said the ban on so-called indoor politics has been lifted.

He said political parties will now be free to organise meetings so long as they're not held in public or become mass rallies.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka says this is the first relaxation of restrictions which have all but outlawed political activity since January.

The administration initially enjoyed widespread popular support, as it promised to stamp out corruption and to hold elections by the end of 2008.

But discontent has been rising in recent months, most notably over the increasing cost of living.

Last month, student demonstrations in Dhaka turned violent and spread into protests demanding an end to emergency rule.

The violence posed the most serious challenge to the emergency government since it took power.


SEE ALSO
Press concern at Bangladesh emergency
13 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Troops enforce Bangladesh order
12 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Observers shun Bangladeshi vote
11 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Violent clashes at Dhaka protest
07 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Army to 'stop election violence'
04 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Back from the brink in Bangladesh
31 Oct 06 |  South Asia

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