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New Bangladeshi Government Offers Logistical Support to US - 2001-11-07

Bangladesh has reaffirmed its offer of logistical support to the United States in the war on terrorism. The pledge was conveyed at a Washington meeting Tuesday between Secretary of State Colin Powell and visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister Badruddoza Chowdhury.

Bangladesh is one of the world's most populous Muslim countries. And although its offer to let U.S. forces use its ports and airfields may be largely symbolic, it is none-the-less of high importance to the Bush administration.

The previous caretaker administration in Dhaka first made the offer. But it was reaffirmed in the late-Tuesday meeting here between Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Chowhury that was the first high-level meeting between the countries since the new government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia took office last month.

In a talk with reporters here, Foreign Minister Chowdhury said the new coalition stands by the offer of its predecessor which, he said, is in keeping with the traditional moderation of Bangladesh in world affairs. "Bangladesh is [among] the most shall we say democratic and moderate Muslim countries in the world, you see," he noted. "So we are progressive and pragmatic. And our views are well-known now. And in the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Countries, it is not only Bangladesh. All the countries agreed generally that we are all against terrorism of any kind. And nobody opposed it, nobody."

There have been anti-U.S. protests in Bangladesh in recent weeks by Muslim fundamentalists including a key party of the new coalition. But Mr. Chowdhury said the issue did not come up in his meeting with Secretary Powell.

The Bangladesh official said he did raise the damage being done to his country's critical textile industry by the global recession, which has gained momentum since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Mr. Chodhury said more than a third of the country's 3,400 garment enterprises have had to shut down because of the recession.

He urged the Bush administration to give Bangladesh the same duty free access for textiles already enjoyed by Caribbean and sub-Saharan African countries.