DHAKA, Bangladesh - Bangladesh's president yesterday swore in a respected economist as head of the country's caretaker government, trying to defuse a bloody political crisis that has paralyzed the country ahead of general elections.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, the former head of Bangladesh's central bank, took the oath from President Iajuddin Ahmed during a brief ceremony at the presidential palace. The ceremony came one day after the president declared a state of emergency, postponed the Jan. 22 elections, and stepped down as leader of the caretaker government amid often-violent protests.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, whose main job is to lay the ground for new elections in the impoverished nation, did not speak during the ceremony.

The country's two main political leaders, whose bitter feud has fed months of increasing violence, made no comment about the appointment, but one of them - former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - attended the swearing-in.

Her 19-party political alliance had forced Iajuddin Ahmed to quit as the head of the interim government by organizing repeated strikes and blockades. The alliance accused the president of favoring her archrival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who did not attend the ceremony.

Earlier yesterday, soldiers arrested an opposition politician, Kamal Majumder, a member of the Awami League party that organized many of the protests and a candidate in the now-postponed vote.

Dhaka police official Jasim, who uses only one name, would not say what charges Majumder would face. Under the constitution, many fundamental rights are suspended during a state of emergency.

Despite the arrest, much of Bangladesh was calm and there was little sign of military activity after the president's surprise announcement Thursday.

Many Bangladeshis hoped the resignation would end the political standoff. The violence has left at least 34 dead since October, largely paralyzed the government, and slowed the economy.