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B'desh chief vows to hold polls at the earliest

BANGLADESH: Bangladesh's new interim administration chief failed to set a deadline on Sunday for disputed elections that were due this month but said he would hand over power to an elected government at the earliest.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, in his first comments since he took office nine days ago, also promised to clean up Bangladesh's controversial election system, fight corruption and urged divided political parties to nominate honest candidates.

Ahmed's speech came hours after the head of the election commission resigned, considered the first step to prepare the troubled South Asian nation for polls that were put off under pressure from an alliance of opposition parties.

"The nation faces the tough challenge of holding credible elections after undertaking the necessary reforms but we have accepted the challenge," Ahmed said in a broadcast to the nation.

"We are bound by our pledge to hand over power to an elected government within the shortest possible time after holding free, fair and impartial polls acceptable to all," he said during the 20-minute address in Bengali.

Ahmed said the government needed to reorganise the election commission, redo the voters' rolls and arrange for transparent ballot boxes to ensure credible elections which all political parties would contest.

"We want elections and politics to be rid of money and muscle power. We want to make the country's administration non-partisan," said Ahmed.

"We hope the parties will cooperate and help develop a political culture in the country."

Dhaka, Monday, Reuters

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