- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Clinton to South Asia

Bangladesh is getting excited as it prepares for the first visit by a U.S. president.
"We are very happy," Bangladeshi Ambassador K.M. Shehabuddin said yesterday.
"We think it is great support for our nascent democracy and the democratic institutions which the prime minister, Sheik Hasina, is trying to build up."
Mr. Clinton will visit Bangladesh on March 25 as part of a South Asia trip that also includes India. He will be the first U.S. president to visit India in 22 years.
In Bangladesh, he will visit development projects of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, the "microcredit" Grameen Bank, a health project run by a private U.S. relief agency and a women's shelter, Mr. Shehabuddin told The Washington Times' Ben Barber.
The Clinton visit will also highlight "the enormous investment opportunities that Bangladesh offers and the deep interest of American companies in hydrocarbon areas," he said.
Mr. Shehabuddin said he was recently told by Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl "Rick" Inderfurth that "Bangladesh is a jewel in the crown of South Asia."
While Pakistan is under military rule, Sri Lanka fights a bloody Tamil insurrection and India is in a nuclear arms race with Pakistan, Bangladesh remains committed to peace, and its economic indicators are positive.
However the Bangladesh National Party and other opposition parties continue to boycott parliament and carry out periodic "hartals" or violent strikes that aim to paralyze the economy and force Sheik Hasina's ruling Awami League to hold new elections.
Mr. Clinton will not stay overnight because of the lack of sufficient accommodations for his entourage at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, a diplomatic source reported.
He will be the first American president to visit India since Jimmy Carter in 1978.
"I'm going [to India] because it is the biggest democracy in the world, and I think we haven't been working with them enough," Mr. Clinton said.
"We have an enormous common interest in shaping the future with them."
His visit to India will begin during the week of March 20, the White House said.
No decision has been made on whether to visit Pakistan, where the army last year overthrew a democratically elected government, which critics charged with widespread corruption.

Seeking China dialogue

The new U.S. ambassador to China yesterday urged Beijing to engage in wide-ranging talks on human rights.
China, meanwhile, warned the United States against introducing a U.N. resolution condemning China's human rights abuses.
Ambassador Joseph Prueher told U.S. business executives the United States is pleased that China last week released Song Yongyi, a librarian from Pennsylvania who had been detained since August for researching the Cultural Revolution.
"I think it's important that human rights discussions with China not be a series of spikes, of individuals, but rather a broader dialogue where we get more philosophically in tune," Adm. Prueher told the American Chamber of Commerce-China.
"A secure, stable and prosperous China is what's in the interests of the United States."
Meanwhile, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya warned that restoring bilateral talks on human rights would be impossible if the United States supports the "anti-China resolution" at the United Nations.
China broke off talks with the United States in May after NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia during the war over Kosovo.

Conference changes

Taiwan has switched officials for a news conference this morning at the National Press Club, and the Republic of Congo has canceled its press conference that was scheduled Friday.
John Chang, senior adviser to Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, replaces Shaw Yu-ming, deputy general secretary of Taiwan's Koumintang party, for a 9 a.m. news conference.
President Denis Sassou N'Guesso of the Republic of Congo has canceled his Washington visit, which was planned this week.

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