Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2ndR) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2018
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Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held rare talks with the opposition Thursday, days after its imprisoned leader was given a fresh sentence that will keep her behind bars for 10 years.
Hasina’s ruling Awami League party had earlier rejected any calls for talks with her opponents and ruled out accepting its demand for the dissolution of parliament before elections next month.
In an abrupt about-face, the prime minister hosted members of the opposition coalition at her Dhaka residence late on Thursday to discuss — but did not back down in her refusal to appoint a caretaker government for the polls.
Former foreign minister Kamal Hossain brought a group of 20 opposition officials to the meeting, according to Awami League deputy chief Obaidul Quader.
Hasina rejected the delegation’s key demand for a caretaker government, Quader said.
The visitors were “not satisfied” with the talks, said opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The talks came as Hasina’s chief rival, former premier Khaleda Zia, was on Tuesday handed a seven year prison term on graft charges, while another appeal court doubled her sentence for an earlier embezzlement conviction.
Zia and Hasina have been rivals since the 1980s, when both women allied to force the country’s former military dictator from power.
The duo alternated power for two decades until Zia boycotted national polls in 2014, sparking violence across the Muslim-majority democracy of 160 million.
Zia’s is the only inmate in an otherwise abandoned 19th-century jail and her health has deteriorated in custody. Her physician said she was suffering from diabetes and that arthritis had rendered her left hand useless.
Lawyers for Zia have accused the government of putting her health at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison.


EU leaders’ decision on Brexit delay unlikely this week: Juncker

Updated 57 min 15 sec ago
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EU leaders’ decision on Brexit delay unlikely this week: Juncker

  • The delay, nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, leaves the Brexit divorce uncertain

BERLIN: European Union leaders are unlikely to agree at a summit this week on a delay to Britain’s departure, and will probably have to meet again next week, the head of the bloc’s executive branch said Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask Brussels for a delay to Brexit, currently scheduled for March 29, ahead of the EU summit starting Thursday. Details remain unclear, but May’s troubles deepened when the speaker of the House of Commons ruled earlier this week that she can’t keep asking lawmakers to vote on the same divorce deal they have already rejected twice.

Britain’s political chaos is causing increasing exasperation among EU leaders. Asked by Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio what May would need to secure a delay this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker replied that “she must bring approval of the negotiated deal and she must bring clear ideas on timing.”

“My impression is ... that this week at the European Council there will be no decision, but that we will probably have to meet again next week, because Mrs. May doesn’t have agreement to anything, either in her Cabinet or in Parliament,” Juncker added.

“As long as we don’t know what Britain could say yes to, we can’t reach a decision.”

A delay to Britain’s withdrawal would require the approval of all 27 remaining EU countries. Juncker said that “in all probability” Britain won’t leave on March 29, but underlined the EU’s insistence that it will not reopen the painstakingly negotiated withdrawal agreement that British lawmakers have snubbed.

“There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations and no additional assurances on top of the additional assurances we have already given,” he said.

“We will keep talking to the British. We are not in a state of war with Britain, we are in a state of negotiations, but the negotiations are concluded.”