- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Bangladeshi agenda

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wazed arrived in Washington this week after warning that the political opposition in her country will use any means it can to unseat her government.

"The BNP [Bangladesh National Party] does not believe in independence and democracy. It is bluffing people in the name of so-called politics of agitation," she told an audience Sunday in London, where she stopped en route to the United States.

The BNP has refused to recognize her 1996 election and frequently organizes protests that shut down businesses and traffic in the capital, Dhaka.

Sheik Hasina, who is running for a second term, told Bangladeshi expatriates that her Awami League party has fulfilled its campaign promises to improve the economy and the country's image abroad.

"What we feel is that power is not for enjoying but for working for the cause of the people," she said, according to an account yesterday in the Bangladeshi press.

Sheik Hasina, who is due to meet President Clinton today, said one of her primary goals on her Washington visit is to continue promoting U.S. investment in Bangladesh. American corporations have invested $800 million since her election, a staggering increase from the $20 million under the old government.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) on Monday, she also said she will advocate the elimination of tariffs and quotas on exports to the United States.

Sheik Hasina also said she will again ask the United States to deport three men who were convicted in Bangladesh for the 1976 murder of her father, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, the founder of the country. The United States has no extradition treaty with Bangladesh.

"Despite the absence of an extradition treaty, the criminals could be deported," she told the BBC. "This kind of [treaty] is not necessarily required for deportation."

"A criminal is a criminal. A terrorist is a terrorist," she added. "They have committed state terrorism, and they are very much a threat to the law and order situation of a country where they stay."

Sheik Hasina also said she will resist any pressure from the United States that Bangladesh permit the export of natural gas.

"Our position on the issue is that we can consider exporting or selling surplus gas after meeting the requirement of our people and keeping a gas reserve of 50 years for our next generation," she said.

Sheik Hasina's visit follows Mr. Clinton's trip to Bangladesh in March. He is the first U.S. president to visit the country.

Bangladesh on hold

There's no Tennessee waltz at the Bangladeshi Embassy, but there is a little bit of Texas.

A caller put on hold is treated to a rendition of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," sort of the unofficial state song, and "Home on the Range," sort of the unofficial cowboy song. Texas Gov. George W. Bush would be pleased.

Certainly the embassy is not taking the side of the Republican presidential nominee over Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee.

Then again, it could be "subliminable."

Test for Kyrgyzstan

Parliamentary elections in March were deeply flawed, and the top opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election has been disqualified because he refused to take a language test.

Nevertheless, the United States is still urging Kyrgyzstan to hold a free and fair election Oct. 29 with the six candidates still in the race.

"We hope that Kyrgyzstan will again become an example of democratic development in Central Asia," said U.S. Ambassador John Martin O'Keefe, who took up his post last month.

"It is very important that all six candidates are able to freely campaign and take part in the elections. It is important that mass media can reflect all points of view," he told reporters last week.

Mr. O'Keefe called the parliamentary elections a "step backwards" for a country that was once held up as a model among former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

Kyrygyz President Askar Akayev is widely expected to win the election now that Felix Kulov, his toughest opponent, was barred from the campaign because he would not take a Kyrgyz language test.

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