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Zia calling off meeting with Pranab 'very unfortunate': Bangladesh

Zia calling off meeting with Pranab 'very unfortunate': BangladeshDhaka, March 5 - Bangladesh Tuesday described as "very unfortunate" its opposition leader Khaleda Zia calling off her meeting with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, a meeting the BNP leader had herself sought.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, addressing a press conference, said ""It is very unfortunate that from her side (Zia's side) the meeting was called off. It should not have happened."

Moni also said that Zia, the head of the Bangladesh National Party and former prime minister, had herself sought the meeting with the Indian president, which was scheduled for Monday.

"The Indian president is a highly respected person in Bangladesh. The opposition leader had sought the appointment, and it was expected that she would call on him. It is unfortunate that it was called off."

However, pressed on whether she thought it was a breach of protocol, Moni declined to say anything, except that it was very unfortunate.

She also added that the opposition party had fixed the meeting with Mukherjee through the Indian High Commission.

"As a Bangali nation we take pride in being hospitable and being gracious. And this is obvious departure from that," she added.

Asked if it was a "potential threat to democratic norms", Moni said "What it shows is that not all parties share similar democratic attitudes and practices.. That this was a departure from democratic norms are demonstrated.."

She added that Bangladesh did "not want the close relations with India to suffer due to the departure".

Moni's comments come on a day the BNP has called a dawn-to-dusk strike on which two buses have been set on fire in Mirpur and Kawran Bazar of Dhaka. Processions, explosions were reported from Sabujbagh, Mugda, Gulshan Link Road and other areas of the capital. Vandalism was reported from Golapbagh area of Jatrabari.

Rail links were snapped at Bhatiari of Chittagong early Tuesday.

The BNP has called for the strike to protest the deaths, numbering over 70, which it blames on "police atrocities" during the last few days of clashes during between the Jamaat-e-Islami and police over its leader Delwar Hossain Sayadee bein awarded death penalty by the war crimes tribunal last week. (IANS)