Tuesday, March 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

US-Bangladesh to cooperate in trade, energy

DHAKA, March 20 (PTI) — Opening a new chapter in their bilateral relations, the USA and Bangladesh today decided to intensify cooperation in trade and energy sectors, with Washington pledging 97 million dollars as food aid to the impoverished country.

US President Bill Clinton, who had an hour-long meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also announced 14 million dollars in assistance to the country to help it reduce child labour and improve working conditions.

"Today only we begin the partnership" in trade and other spheres and economic ties between the two countries would be strengthened, Clinton, the first US President to visit Bangladesh after its independence in 1971, told reporters here.

Sheikh Hasina welcomed the new US food assistance as also an 84 million dollar programme to promote clean energy initiatives for Bangladesh, India and Nepal, with some 50 million dollars to fund trade initiatives.

She said the two countries have agreed to intensify cooperation on developing Bangladesh's vast natural gas reserves but ruled out export of gas till the domestic requirements were met for 50 years.

"On the question of export of gas, our position remains that after fully meeting our domestic requirements and ensuring gas reserves for 50 years for use of future generations, the remaining surplus gas will be used for export," she said.

Hasina's comment was a virtual disappointment to US and British petroleum companies and the world bank which have been urging the country to open up its largely untapped gas resources for export.

The Opposition in Bangladesh has warned against leasing gas fields to foreign companies and exporting gas to India.

As the US President arrived in Dhaka amid unprecedented security, some 400 students at Dhaka University protested against American "imperialism", saying that Clinton "is here to rob our natural resources."

Clinton, who was given a warm welcome on his arrival on a day-long visit by Bangladesh President Shahabuddin Ahmed and sheikh Hasina, appreciated the recent ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by Dhaka.

Hasina requested Clinton to expedite the deportation of three killers of the country's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman now living in the USA.

A Dhaka court has sentenced to death 15 former army officials, including the three believed to be in the USA, for the 1975 assassination of Mujibur Rehman.

"We stressed that the killers have terrorist links and that they should not be given refuge in the greatest democracy of the world, a country that upholds the rule of the law," sheikh Hasina said.

"I am touched by President Clinton's sympathetic response," said Hasina, who is a daughter of Mujibur Rehman.

Earlier, security concerns forced the cancellation of Clinton's visit to a nearby Joypura village, where the locals were to showcase a highly-successful micro-credit programme that has made Bangladesh a model for raising living standards among the world's poorest through small, collateral-free loans.

Officials cited "credible threat" of danger from flying over unguarded forest and rice fields as the reason for the cancellation.

Also scrapped was a wreath-laying ceremony at the national martyr's memorial honouring the Bengalis who died fighting for independence from Pakistan in 1971.Back


Fury as Clinton cancels visit to war memorial

DHAKA, March 20 (AFP) — US President Bill Clinton enraged Bangladeshis during his historic trip today when he became the first visiting head of state not to pay respect at a memorial for the country's 1971 independence martyrs.

The President, the first US head of state to visit Bangladesh since the bloody nine-month independence war with Pakistan, was scheduled to lay a wreath and plant a sapling as is the tradition for visiting world leaders here.

War veterans, journalists and leading community figures said the snub was an insult to the people of Bangladesh.

"This is an insult to the three million martyrs of the war and an act of mockery against our independence," said Shahriar Kabir, a local writer.

Haroon Habib, a war veteran and senior journalist, said: "President Clinton has made a mistake like his predecessor in 1971 (Richard Nixon) and it will hurt the whole Bengali nation." Back


Clinton backs extradition of assassins

DHAKA, March 20 (AFP) — US President Bill Clinton assured Bangladeshi Prime Minister sheikh Hasina Wajed today that he backed the extradition of three of her father's killers now living in the USA.

Sheikh Hasina "expressed a strong view that she would hope that they would be deported," Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told reporters here.

Fifteen former army officers were sentenced to death here in 1998 for the assassination of independence hero sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.

"The President... said that we were seeking to have them removed from the United States, that they were in the midst of judicial proceedings, that he believed that we should seek that result," Berger said.

Clinton also proposed an extradition treaty between the two countries to facilitate such matters, Berger said.

The three are retired army officers Sharful Hossian, Rashed Chowdhury and Mohiuddin. Back


Airport, roads shut for security

DHAKA, March 20 (AP) — Nearly 50 flights were disrupted at the international airport, Dhaka's main roads were closed all day and villagers who planned to show US President Bill Clinton around their town today instead had to travel to the capital city to see him.

Clinton's side trip to the village was scrapped out of concern for his safety.

Nearly 12,000 policemen, soldiers and paramilitary troops in green camouflage stood on rooftops and every 10 meters along the streets where Clinton's motorcade passed.

American and Bangladeshi military jets roared over the capital on Sunday on practice runs, generating sonic booms and a protest from the mayor Mohammad Hanif.

"The parties concerned should not make the people frightened by such bangs without prior notice," the mayor said.

Thousands of Bangladeshis found alternative ways into the city after police declared main roads off-limits except to those with special security passes.

"I have taken Sunday and Monday off as I live on the other side of town and have to go all around the city to get to work," said Arif Ahmed, who works for a bank in the city centre. Some companies told their employees to stay home.


Chelsea Clinton celebrates Holi in desert town

JODHPUR, March 20 (PTI) — The century-old Ummed Bhavan palace turned into a riot of colours as Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the US President, and her grandmother Dorothy Rodham, today joined members of the royal family in Holi celebrations.

Chelsea and her grandmother allowed themselves to be daubed on the cheeks with "gulal" by the royal hosts as a battery of mediapersons watched the festival of colours. They, however, did not splash colour on others.

Curiosity and excitement were writ large on the face of the dignitaries as they saw faces of the members of the royal family splashed in all hues.

As the guests watched, the royal family gathering played an intense Holi recreating the grandeur of the bygone era.

Earlier, Chelsea and her grandmother were welcomed with "tilak" on their arrival at the palace.

After Holi celebrations, Chelsea and Dorothy had lunch with royal family members. The dishes served for the guests included spicy Marwari delicacies.

The dignitaries visited Mehrangarh fort where they enjoyed a panoramic view of the sun city at the gateway of the majestic Thar desert.

Chelsea and her granny, accompanied by an entourage of 28 members, arrive` here this morning from Delhi by a special plane. External affairs minister Jaswant Singh accompanied them from the national capital.

Maharaja Gaj Singh, his wife and other family members received the guests at the airport from where they straight away drove to the palace to a traditional royal welcome.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
119 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |