Dhaka: The UN on Saturday launched a mission in Bangladesh to end political turmoil triggered by a standoff between the country`s two main parties over the general elections scheduled for January 5.
UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco arrived here last night with UN chief Ban Ki-moon`s message for an urgent dialogue between the Awami League and the main opposition BNP to reach an acceptable formula to hold an "inclusive, non-violent and credible election".
Fernandez-Taranco today met top leaders of the Awami League for nearly two hours. After the meeting, Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam said, "We hope this discussion (UN mediation) will yield fruit.
"We hope the election will be held with participation of all, but we need some space, time which they (UN) need too... today we held an initial discussion without specifying anything," said Islam, who led the Awami League delegation.
Fernandez-Taranco evaded the media following the meeting. Officials said he would also hold talks with Awami League chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The UN envoy`s mission began as the BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami launched a fresh 72-hour nationwide blockade.
Fernandez-Taranco, who is in Dhaka on a five-day visit as Ban`s special emissary, will also meet election commissioners. Earlier in the day, he met US Ambassador Dan Mozena.
Over 50 people have died in clashes since October when the BNP led 18-party opposition alliance launched a series of protests demanding Prime Minister Hasina`s resignation and the postponement of the elections.
Violence escalated after the Election Commission announced the poll schedule last week and the opposition alliance called two back-to-back nationwide blockades.
The Awami League formed a multi-party interim government to oversee the polls but the BNP refused to join it and demanded the setting up a non-party caretaker set-up.
Former military ruler H M Ershad, whose Jatiya Party is a key ally of the Awami League-led grand alliance, announced three days ago that his party would boycott the polls due to the lack of a proper atmosphere. His decision is being seen as a major jolt for Hasina.
The UN chief launched a fresh initiative to end the deadlock after his previous efforts yielded no result. Ban had written to Hasina and Zia last month, weeks after he called them on phone and asked them to ensure that free and fair polls are held on time.
Fernandez-Taranco`s trip came three days after Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh visited Dhaka and said New Delhi wants the democratic process in Bangladesh to continue with the holding of credible elections joined by the "maximum number of parties".