- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bangladeshi envoys

The ambassador from Bangladesh is urging the Bush administration to use diplomats from his country as envoys to hard-line states like Iran, which has good relations with the South Asian nation.

“The U.S. should use Bangladeshis as conduits,” Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury told The Washington Times this week. “The United States should make an opening to Iran.”

Mr. Chowdhury said Bangladeshi diplomats are ideal envoys because “everyone accepts us” in the region.

He also expressed optimism that foreign terrorists and domestic insurgents in Iraq eventually will be defeated.

“I like to wake up every morning and see a ray of hope in Iraq,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

He added that the terrorists and insurgents will create a backlash because of their attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians.

“They are making a mistake targeting Iraqis. When you kill my neighbor or my neighbor’s son, you are the enemy,” he said.

Mr. Chowdhury doubted that the violence will spread deeper because “I still don’t think [the terrorists and insurgents] have deep, genuine, grass-roots support.”

The ambassador repeated his government’s position that Bangladesh remains a moderate Muslim country that gives no shelter to international terrorism. However, many specialists on terrorism fear that Bangladesh is becoming a breeding ground for Islamic extremists.

“We do not have links with international terrorism,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “This has been our strength.”

He noted that his government closed Saudi-run charities suspected of laundering money for terrorists after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Mr. Chowdhury added that the origin of the violence that does exist in Bangladesh was domestic, not foreign.

“We do have serious law-and-order issues,” he said.

Outside analysts fear Bangladesh is heading for a crisis.

“Bangladesh’s long tradition of inclusive, moderate Islam is increasingly under threat from extremist alternatives, already offering an attractive breeding ground for political and sectarian violence,” the State Department said in its annual report on terrorism.

The British-based Jane’s Information Group warned that Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, is “on the brink of being a failed state, and that makes it a perfect target for al Qaeda and its ever-expanding network of Islamic extremist organizations.”

“Virtually unnoticed by the world at large, Bangladesh is being dragged into the global war on terrorists by becoming a sanctuary for them,” Jane’s said in a January report.

On another issue, the ambassador urged the Bush administration to improve its message to the Muslim world. He was pleased that President Bush appointed Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born Arabic speaker, as assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy.

“But more needs to be done to reverse the impression that the war on terrorism is a war on Islam,” he said.

Bonds with Israel

Israel’s economy continues to grow despite more than “four years of unrelenting Palestinian terror,” Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon told hundreds of investors in the Jewish state.

Mr. Ayalon, speaking at the annual Israel Bonds Dinner this month, cited a 2 percent growth in the gross domestic product, a 14 percent increase in exports and a 42 percent increase in tourism last year.

“We are not complacent, and we remain on guard. We are pursuing our [Gaza Strip] disengagement plan that, despite the difficulties, will further our security as well as our diplomatic and political standing,” he said.

The ambassador praised the holders of Israeli bonds “for supporting us [and] sticking with us through thick and thin.”

“Israel is well on our way along the path toward real peace, genuine security and economic prosperity,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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