South Asia

Bangladesh: Police and protesters clash during strike

A Bangladeshi riot policeman detains an activist during a six-hour general strike in Dhaka.
Image caption More than 100 people were arrested for violent conduct, police say

Police in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka have used batons to disperse protesters during a six-hour strike against a gas exploration deal with the US energy giant ConocoPhillips.

Most shops, businesses and schools were closed and very few vehicles were on the roads during the strike called by a left-leaning citizens' group.

The group says the deal compromises Bangladesh's interests.

Strikes called by political parties are not uncommon in Bangladesh.

But this time a shut down was enforced by the National Committee for Protection of Oil and Gas and Ports.

The left-wing group wants the government to scrap a deal with the US oil giant ConocoPhillips to explore for gas in the Bay of Bengal.

The strike forced most businesses, offices and schools in Dhaka to close.

Deal 'misinterpreted'

Police said more than 100 protesters were arrested for violent conduct.

Officials say the deal is essential to meet the growing energy demands of Bangladesh,which is facing a daily gas shortage of up to 14m cubic metres or about 25% of its total requirement.

But critics say the deal will not solve the country's energy crisis.

They allege that under the agreement ConocoPhillips could export up to 80% of the gas found in the two deep sea blocks.

The government says some clauses in the deal are being misinterpreted.

Bangladesh has been seeking new sources of gas amid forecasts that at present consumption rates, its current reserves will run out by 2015.

Meanwhile, the main opposition and its allies have announced a 40-hour nation-wide strike from 6 July in protest against the government's decision to abolish the caretaker system of administration, which oversees general elections.

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