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Powell to Visit Bangladesh - 2003-06-17

Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Bangladesh on Thursday, June 19, for meetings expected to focus on stability in the South Asia region. Mr. Powell will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca. The trip that includes visits to Cambodia and Jordan.

This will be the first visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to Bangladesh, the world's second-largest Muslim democracy. During his one-day visit Mr. Powell will meet with high-ranking officials, including Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan. He is also expected to meet with leader of the opposition and former prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca said the visit is in recognition of Bangladesh's role in world affairs. "The U.S. greatly appreciates the moderate voice that Bangladesh provides and the contribution that Bangladesh makes to a stable world. We enjoy excellent cooperation with Bangladesh on counter-terrorism, peace keeping and other global issues. And this is an appropriate time to show how important Bangladesh is to the U.S. and convey these thoughts," Ms. Rocca said.

Assistant Secretary Rocca expressed optimism that tension between India and Pakistan is easing and relations between the two countries are moving in the right track. She highlighted, what she termed, the important role Bangladesh plays in South Asia, regardless of the circumstances. She also praised Bangladesh for the solid progress in building democratic institutions and for holding free and fare elections.

"It has a moderate government. It has a democracy and a functioning democracy and it has changed powers three times peacefully. This is a great example not only in South Asia but around the world," Ms. Rocca said.

A wide range of issues are expected to be discussed during the Secretary of State's visit. Bangladesh officials say they will seek duty and quota free access of goods to the U.S. market, a liberal policy on visit and immigration visas for Bangladesh citizens and a soft attitude toward Bangladeshis living in the United States.

Secretary of State Powell and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Khan are also expected to discuss international issues, including post-war situation in Iraq and the "Roadmap" for peace in the Middle East. The two are also expected to hold a joint news conference.