UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN leader Ban Ki Moon has called on rival Bangladesh political parties to calm tensions ahead of a looming election.
In a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Mr Ban also "reiterated his increasing concern about the recent wave of violence" linked to Islamic militants in Bangladesh, said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Mr Ban "stressed the critical importance for the political leaders of Bangladesh to engage in constructive dialogue, with a view to defusing tensions and resolving differences, including on governance arrangements during the upcoming election period," said Mr Nesirky.
The ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are on an increasing collision course ahead of a national election to be held in January 2014.
The BNP and its smaller Islamist allies have threatened to boycott the polls if they are not held under a neutral caretaker government. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected the demand.
The atmosphere has been further poisoned by clashes between police and Islam protesters last week, in which dozens died, and a court death sentence order against a top Bangladeshi Islamist for masterminding the killing of at least 120 farmers during the country's 1971 independence war.
Mr Ban has sent an envoy, assistant secretary general for political affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, to try to bring the rival parties together.
Speaking in Dhaka, Mr Fernandez-Taranco highlighted the "significant increase" in violence in recent weeks, including the clashes between police and Islamist protesters.
He said: "The views that I have heard suggests that there is ground for agreement but bridging the gap will require political will and commitment to resolve the remaining differences."