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Four Bangladesh advisers quit over army deployment

BANGLADESH: Four advisers of Bangladesh's interim government resigned on Monday following differences over the deployment of armed forces in the run-up to January elections, officials said.

President Iajuddin Ahmed ordered the deployment of the armed forces on Saturday following weeks of political violence that killed at least 44 people and injured hundreds.

Ministry officials said the advisers had sent resignation letters to the president. The four were former army chief Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, ex-top bureaucrat Akbar Ali Khan, former foreign secretary C.M. Shafi Sami and Sultana Kamal, a lawyer.

Earlier Troops took up positions around Bangladesh on Sunday after the government ordered the deployment to ensure a peaceful run-up to elections next month.

President Iajuddin Ahmed ordered the deployment amid a deterioration of public order and threats by a multi-party alliance led by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, head of the Awami League, to besiege the president's palace.

In a televised speech to the nation late on Sunday President Iajuddin said army had been engaged to help the civil administration to maintain law and order in the run up to the election.

"I call upon the people to extend all out cooperation to the army so that they can fulfil their task," he said.

"I hope political parties will put the country ahead of everything and will participate in the coming election solving disputes through negotiation."

In the capital Dhaka, soldiers entered the presidential compound and other locations including the university campus.

The campus is a hotbed of support for both Hasina and her rival in the Jan. 23 elections, former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

At least 44 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between political activists since late October.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement on Sunday that it regretted that the "negotiation process (between the two major parties) has been stopped".

It said it hoped that the authorities would clearly explain the rules of army engagement.

Officials said the troops would help civil authorities keep order until a new government takes office after the election.

But three of the 10 members of the interim administration's advisory council said the deployment could complicate the political situation.

"The deployment of army was not discussed with the council of advisers, and we still do not know for what purpose the army was called in by the president," adviser Akbar Ali Khan told reporters.

Dhaka, Monday, Reuters

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