US and British envoys in Dhaka shuttled between camps of ruling Awami League and main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in the past several days in their bid to bridge the gaps between two rival parties despite the apparent failure of a UN mission to end the political crisis.

The developments came as the Opposition BNP and its allies have begun enforcing a non-stop blockade of road, rail and water transports across Bangladesh from early today, the first day of 2014, to thwart the January 5 elections.

The Opposition enforced a series of strikes last year but their protests intensified in the past one month as the election commission declared the polls schedule. The Opposition is boycotting the polls and violence during strikes by them have left over 120 people dead since November.     

British High Commissioner Robert Gibson called on BNP chief Khaleda Zia on Monday and then met ruling Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam on Tuesday, while US Ambassador Dan Mozena met the former prime minister on Tuesday and is expected to meet the government leaders shortly.
    
The fresh initiatives came as the US last week said, "We believe it's more urgent than ever for the major parties to redouble their efforts to engage in constructive dialogue to find a way forward to holding free and fair elections that are credible and reflecting the will of the Bangladeshi people."

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her archrival BNP chief Zia "missed the train" for the 10th general elections but she was ready for talks with the Opposition on the 11th parliamentary polls hinting that her upcoming government could be short-lived to pave ways for the next polls.

But Zia demanded the January 5 polls plan be scrapped as over half of the candidates in the 300-seat parliament were set to be declared unopposed in the absence of rivals from her party and called for the blockade for indefinite period.

(Agencies)

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