Updated: 12/11/2013 22:52 | By Agence France-Presse

UN chief, Kerry call Bangladesh PM over poll standoff

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry called Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday to stress the need for talks with the opposition to resolve the country's election standoff.


UN chief, Kerry call Bangladesh PM over poll standoff

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is pictured in Hanoi on November 2, 2012

"John Kerry emphasised (the need for) continuous talks between the two parties," and that the US "expects a peaceful solution" to the poll stalemate, Hasina's spokesman Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury told reporters.

Ban also called Hasina, expressing his hopes for dialogue with the opposition to end the row that has plunged the country into crisis, her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told AFP. 

The UN assistant secretary for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, now visiting Bangladesh, and a US embassy spokesman confirmed the phone calls by the world's top diplomats.

"Secretary Kerry spoke with Sheikh Hasina about the current events,' the spokesperson said, without elaborating.

The phone calls came a day after officials from the country's ruling Awami League party and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held one-to-one talks for the first time in years in a bid to defuse the election row.

BNP and its smaller allies have said they will boycott the January 5 polls and have called a series of crippling strikes and transport blockades, plunging the country into one of its worst crises in years.

Some 77 people have died in clashes since late October, when the BNP-led 18-party opposition movement launched the protests calling on Hasina to resign and make way for the polls under a neutral government. 

The opposition, led by Hasina's rival Khaleda Zia, has said it fears the premier will try to rig the vote in a country which for decades has been plagued by coups and political upheaval.

Hasina has rejected the demands for her resignation and is determined to hold the polls as scheduled, insisting it is a constitutional requirement.

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