Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday called in protest leaders for “preliminary talks” to defuse a prolonged political crisis over his continuance in office. Nationally televised, the talks were held in Bangkok.

The meeting took place after the protesters agreed to withdraw from the vicinity of an infantry regiment. They had moved there early on Sunday from their main protest site in Bangkok to pressure the government which, in their view, was a “proxy” of the military bloc.

Both Mr. Abhisit and the protest leader, who owes allegiance to the military-deposed and now-fugitive leader Thaksin Shinawatra, greeted each other with smiles at the start of the talks. Thereafter, both sides stated their polarised positions. While Mr. Abhisit ruled out instant dissolution of the House of Representatives, the refrain of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), an umbrella group of protesters, was fresh elections.

It was said on behalf of the government, even before these talks, that “the UDD's proposals would be taken up for consideration for the next step of the talks.”

Until late in the night on Sunday, there was no clear indication about the UDD's next course of action in an already-two-week-long phase of rallies, picketing, and the splashing of donated blood at the premises of the Prime Minister's office and residence as also his party office. The government announced its intention to go beyond the latest “preliminary talks.”

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