The United States yesterday called for fresh polls in Bangladesh by May or June, but the government in response said the idea was too ambitious.
US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan Mozena made the call at a briefing for diplomats at the foreign ministry.
Mozena said the political parties should engage in dialogue towards a free, fair and credible election as soon as possible, reflecting the will of the Bangladeshi people, said sources in the meeting, attended by envoys of around 50 nations.
The US envoy, who left for his country yesterday for over two weeks for consultations on Bangladesh, said the new election should be held before the monsoon by May or June, said the sources.
In response to Mozena's call, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, who briefed the diplomats, said, “It is too ambitious.”
He said the government was sincere about holding talks that would help decide whether the next election will be a mid-term one or it will take place after five years.
At the 40-minute briefing, Shahriar talked about the constitutional necessity for holding the January 5 polls, the BNP's boycott of the election, acts of violence by the BNP and the Jamaat, attacks on minorities, and the government's fresh overtures for dialogue.
It was the first diplomatic briefing since the new cabinet led by Sheikh Hasina took oath of office on January 12.
The envoys of the European Union, the UK, South Korea and Italy as well as other nations stressed the need for immediate talks between political parties to work out a mutually acceptable way to hold an inclusive and credible election soon.
EU Ambassador William Hanna hinted that if the political situation remains unchanged it might have an effect on Bangladesh's trade with the EU, said meeting sources.
British High Commissioner Robert Gibson repeatedly underscored the need for holding immediate talks that would lead to a fresh election.
The diplomats expressed disappointment over the January 5 polls that saw 153 candidates elected unopposed. They also strongly condemned the acts of violence during the BNP-Jamaat's hartals and blockades and attacks on minority communities.
Envoys of Russia, China, India, Myanmar and Nepal that congratulated Hasina on her assumption of office as prime minister refrained from making comments at the meeting.
However, Egyptian Ambassador Mahmoud Ezzat termed the January 5 election “very beautiful” and said his country was very happy with the election, said the sources.
Emerging from the meeting, Mozena, Hanna and Gibson talked to the media, and said they expect an initiative from the government to “restart” dialogue with the BNP soon to find a way for holding an inclusive election.
Mozena said, “I was also encouraged by a very clear call that all violence must stop, especially the violence that is directed against minority communities. These are very positive statements from the new minister of state.”
He hoped that the two major parties -- the Awami League and the BNP -- would find a way to “restart” talks immediately for the holding of fresh polls as soon as possible.
Mentioning the BNP chief's press conference on Wednesday and response from some quarters in the ruling party, the US envoy said they had seen some positive steps from both sides.
“So, these are all encouraging steps … encouraging development,” he said.
In his lengthy speech at the meeting, the state minister for foreign affairs sought support from the international community for strengthening democracy in Bangladesh.
He told the diplomats that the government's offer of dialogue for the BNP still stands provided that it cuts ties with the Jamaat-e-Islami and shuns violence.
Shahriar said the government was encouraged by the BNP's renewed interests in having dialogue with the government and its decision to withdraw blockades.
“We hope such decisions and statements from the BNP would help pave the way for a dialogue between the government and the BNP sooner rather than later.”
The state minister later briefed the media. When a reporter asked him about the possibility of a mid-term election, he said, “It is too early to make any comment … we are not under any pressure [from the international community].”
In reply to another query, Shahriar said some countries refrained from congratulating the new government probably in “an effort to put pressure, but we are not at all feeling any pressure from anywhere”.