Protesters against Bangladesh power plant give two weeks for demands to be met

By Serajul Quadir DHAKA (Reuters) - Protesters opposing the construction of a Chinese-backed, coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh agreed on Sunday to halt their activities for 15 days, defusing tensions after four demonstrators were killed last week. Villagers for and against the $2.4 billion power plant in the coastal district of Chittagong clashed last week before riot police fired their weapons after coming under attack. Four protestors died in the violence. S Alam Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate which signed a deal on April 4 with China's SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Corp to build the 1,320 megawatt plant, suspended work because of safety concerns, a company official said last week. Liakot Ali, the leader of the demonstrators, said they had made a number of demands to the authorities. He said a leader of Bangladesh's ruling Awami League had asked for two weeks to settle the issues. "We have demanded the release of all 17 people who have been arrested, the withdrawal of cases against villagers who demonstrated against this plant ... and the treatment of those injured during the demonstration," he said. Abdullah Kabir Liton, a senior Awami League official in Chittagong district said he had met with local people to try to convince them to stop their movement. "We need a few days to breathe," Liton told Reuters. The plant, located 265 km (165 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka, is a major source of foreign investment into Bangladesh, and one of a series of plans Beijing is pushing to cultivate closer ties with Dhaka. The protesters say villagers around the plant will lose their homes, it will disturb the graveyards of relatives and cause environmental damage. "They started works without the approval from the ministry of environment," Liakot said. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, an adviser to the prime minister responsible for power and energy told Reuters the project would use modern technology and would not harmful for environment. (Reporting by Serajul Quadir; additional reporting by Nazimuddin Shyamol from Chittagong; Editing by Ros Russell)