Bangladesh ex-PM offers olive branch to rivals

The two women, known as "battling Begums", have not spoken to each other for most of their years in power.

Bangladesh ex-PM offers olive branch to rivals
Bangladesh's detained former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia has offered an olive branch to her rivals, saying it was time for the country's feuding politicians to work together to salvage the country from a severe crisis.

She also said the country's army-backed interim government should resolve all problems through dialogue with all political parties, her lawyers said on Thursday.

"We do not believe in conflict. All problems can be resolved through discussion. We want to cooperate with the government for free and fair election with the participation of all political parties," lawyer Sanaullah Miah quoted Khaleda as saying after a court appearance on graft charges on Wednesday.

"This is not the time for squabble and difference ... now is the time for salvaging the country through united effort," she added. "We will have to work together to help the nation tide over the crisis."

Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League headed by paroled former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ruled impoverished and disaster-prone Bangladesh for 15 years until 2007, when the interim government took charge following months of political violence.

The interim authority, headed by former Central Bank Governor Fakhruddin Ahmed, has promised to hold a parliamentary election in December 2008 to return Bangladesh to democracy.

The government is keen for both the BNP and Awami League -- the countries biggest parties -- to take part in the poll, which analysts and diplomats say will not be credible without them.

The government last month paroled Hasina for eight weeks, allowing her to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment.

Khaleda and her two sons, Tareque Rahman and Arafat Rahman have also been in separate jails since they were arrested last year for alleged graft and amassing wealth illegally.

Khaleda has asked the government to send her sons abroad immediately for treatment but refused to seek a personal trip out of the country on parole, like her rival Hasina.

The two women, known as "battling Begums", have not spoken to each other for most of their years in power. But Khaleda's offer of talks on Wednesday signalled a departure from her rigid stance, analysts said.

The interim government said it was working on plans to release Khaleda and her sons soon after certain legal complications were sorted out.

But BNP leaders alleged that the government was "buying time to implement a conspiracy to keep Khaleda Zia off the coming polls".

The courts trying Hasina for alleged corruption last month exempted her from personal appearance while on parole and granted similar facility to Khaleda's son and apparent political heir Tareque Rahman.

If convicted, Khaleda and Hasina would be barred from contesting the December election, lawyers said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 10 Temmuz 2008, 16:53
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