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Boucher On Bangladesh Election

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher met with Iajuddin Ahmed, president of the caretaker government in Bangladesh. They discussed U.S. cooperation with Bangladesh as the country prepares for general elections in January.

Mr. Boucher said the caretaker government and election commission "must respect their constitutional role and act neutrally without being biased so that the people's voice is heard." He said the U.S. supports Mr. Iajuddin "and his role," and said Bangladeshi political parties "need to respect the council of advisers [caretaker government cabinet]." Mr. Iajuddin said his government will take all steps necessary to ensure "free, transparent and violence-free polls."

In accordance with Bangladesh law, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party government, led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, handed over power to the caretaker government in October. A fourteen-party opposition alliance led by the Awami League has called for public protests against the appointment of M.A. Aziz as chief election commissioner. The opposition parties accuse Mr. Aziz and his three deputies of bias and want them to step down. Mr. Boucher said the election commission's role "should be credible to voters."

More than twenty people were reportedly killed and more than fifty others injured in recent opposition protests. In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department says violence is a pervasive element of Bangladesh politics. Human rights monitors report that during 2005 alone, more than three-hundred people were killed and nearly nine-thousand others were injured in politically motivated violence.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says it is up to Bangladesh's political parties to resolve their differences peacefully. "The situation is difficult here," said Mr. Boucher, "but the goal is to get a free and fair election."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.