Bangladesh’s arch political rivals agree to talks

November 13th, 2008 - 1:03 am ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Nov 12 (DPA) Bangladesh’s arch political rivals - Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party - have agreed to resolve broader national issues through dialogue, their political aides said Wednesday.Hasina wants discussions on specific issues while Zia seeks a dialogue without any “agenda and pre-condition”.

“Our president is ready for discussion with the chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party. But that must have an agenda,” a spokesman for the Awami League president told reporters after a meeting with envoys of Italy, Netherlands and Sweden in Dhaka.

The same group of diplomats - Itala Maria Marta Occhi of Italy, Bea ten Tusscher of the Netherlands and Britt Hagstroem of Sweden - met the BNP chief Wednesday for a briefing on Bangladesh’s national election slated for Dec 18.

Responding to the dialogue offer from the Awami League, Zia’s spokesman told media that she was ready to sit with her political rival for the greater national interest.

“The chairperson expressed her willingness to sit with the Awami League leader. But the talks will have take place without any condition and without any agenda,” Zia’s spokesman Nazrul Islam Khan told a press briefing.

The two women, who ruled the South Asian nation at various times over the last one-and-a-half decades, have barely been on talking terms.

The two former premiers attended the Armed Forces Day celebration programme Nov 21, 2006, but did not speak with each other on the occasion.

Many attempts have failed to bring the two together to try to resolve the differences in a country sharply divided between Zia’s BNP and Hasina’s Awami League party.

The prospect of talks comes at a time when Bangladesh is preparing for a general election for transition to democracy, ending two years of army-led emergency rule which was imposed after a wave of political violence.

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