- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Greece optimistic

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday insisted that the U.S. “road map” for Middle East peace is “still alive,” despite turmoil in the Palestinian Authority and Israeli threats to exile Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“The road map is still there, still alive,” he told reporters after meeting with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at the State Department. “We are still working closely together on the road map. … There is no other alternative for moving forward with this process.”

Mr. Papandreou said they also discussed the reconstruction of Iraq and hopes for reunification of Cyprus.



Ignoring French demands for a larger role for the United Nations in Iraq, he insisted that “there is a positive spirit of cooperation between the European members of the [U.N.] Security Council and the U.S.”

Mr. Papandreou said he also expressed hope for a Cyprus settlement in his meeting with Mr. Powell and in talks yesterday with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“We believe there is a chance for Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots to live together under one roof in Cyprus and within the European Union,” he said.

The European Union has decided to admit the Greek-Cypriot government next year, regardless of the status of the Turkish-Cypriot regime, recognized only by Turkey.

Bangladesh bugged?

A top official from Bangladesh who values free expression was upset when he learned that regulators in his country want to monitor phone calls and intercept e-mail.

Abdul Moyeen Khan, the minister for science and information and communication technology, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week that he will fight to uphold the Bangladeshi constitutional protection of private conversations.

“I am not in favor of this,” he said of proposed rules being considered by the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. “It has not come before the government, but if it does, I will very probably oppose it.”

Mr. Khan, also a member of Parliament, said he will raise concerns in the Cabinet as well as in the legislature. The commission, an independent governmental agency, cannot adopt new rules without government approval, he said.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders raised an alarm Sunday, warning that the rules would “legalize invasion of privacy and undermine free expression.” It said the commission is responding to pressure from Bangladeshi intelligence agencies and the Justice Ministry to expand eavesdropping to combat terrorism.

Mr. Khan said, however, that the greater threat is to the country’s constitution.

“Our constitution guarantees the freedom of private conversations,” he said. “These basic concepts are highlighted in a democratic society. … The more we regulate, the more we restrict.”

Hindu in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, a low-lying nation frequently hit by killer floods, the minister of water resources is a major government official. In a country where 88 percent of the population is Muslim, he is a Hindu and a member of Parliament.

“I am elected by my Muslim brothers. … This is the true picture of Bangladesh,” Goutam Chakraborty told Embassy Row in a recent interview.

He challenged assertions in an earlier column about human rights abuses against Hindus, Christians and other non-Muslims in the country.

“Bangladesh is a country where we have all religions,” he said. “Regardless of the religions, they are all Bangladeshis. Bangladesh is a haven of communal harmony.”

Last month, Bangladeshi human rights activist Rosaline Costa complained about Muslim violence against Hindu and Christian women and accused local police of failing to stop the abuse.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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