Bangladesh agrees to provide facilities for US strike : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Govt agrees to provide facilities for US strike

by Diplomatic Correspondent

In a complete turnaround in its policy statement in 24 hours, the government yesterday admitted that it had agreed to an American proposal for assistance to its (US) global coalition against terrorism.

A decision has been taken to provide airspace, sea port, airfields and refuelling facilities to the international coalition, Special Assistant to Chief Adviser on Foreign Affairs CM Shafi Sami told newsmen yesterday going back on his own statement made a day earlier.

The decision to provide airspace, sea port, airfield and refuelling facilities to the forces of the international coalition to combat terrorism, was taken by Council of Advisers at a special meeting yesterday.

CM Shafi Sami told newsmen after the meeting that the decision was taken in response to a request made by the United States, considering Bangladesh’s commitment to the international community to fight terrorism and to uphold the resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly of the United Nations and also the UN charter.

He told a questioner that the facilities sought by the US were specified, the modalities to provide those would be worked out soon. He said this was on the basis of a national consensus built through a process of consultation with leaders representing all sections of the society.

About Monday’s official denial of the receipt of any such request from the US, Sami said things were moving too fast. He was correct in his statement at that time, he said.

The Caretaker Government during the past couple of days consulted political leaders and some former foreign ministers and some former foreign secretaries in a bid to identify options open to Bangladesh in the backdrop of the US-led initiative to form a coalition against terrorism.

On Monday former foreign ministers and former foreign secretaries at a brainstorming session organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs discussed the options that remained open to Bangladesh.

On the day, the Caretaker Administration sought a national perspective to the US-led international initiative to fight terrorism, by talking to leaders of the main political parties.

The government did not give any indication as to whether it had received any specific proposal from the United States to allow the use of land, water and airspace of Bangladesh in case of necessity. But it transpired from different interactions that officials of the two sides had face to face exchange of ideas in Dhaka, Washington and New York.

Karl Fridz, Director of the American Centre in Dhaka, when contacted, told The Independent that he was not in a position either to confirm or reject what were being published in newspapers in Bangladesh.

All he knew was that there was clearly an initiative to establish a broad coalition to fight terrorism. Details of that cooperation were being worked out. In the process many speculative stories were coming out through the media, he said.

Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, a former foreign minister, told The Independent that the consultation meeting was unanimous that Bangladesh should play a proactive role instead of sitting idle just because a transitional Caretaker Government was now in power.

Some other former foreign ministers and foreign secretaries declined to comment on the outcome of the meeting saying the official version should be made available by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that hosted the meeting.

Anisul Islam Mahmud said that as a member of the Security Council, the next Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, and as a member of the OIC and the SAARC, Bangladesh has a special responsibility to be with any international coalition against terrorism. It was very much in the interests of the country to play an active role. Bangladesh has its own position on the issue of Palestine but that should form a political agenda, and cannot be solved through terrorism, the meeting felt.

Former foreign minister Dr Kamal Hossain and former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury were also present at the meeting.

Former foreign secretary Farook Sobhan told The Independent that yesterday’s meeting was very informal and designed to collect viewpoints on possible options that Bangladesh had in different scenarios in the best interests of the nation. Responding to a question, he said, he hoped Bangladesh’s response to the international initiative would be positive.

Another former foreign secretary who wished not to be quoted said the Caretaker Government arranged the consultation to ascertain how best Bangladesh’s national interests can be served in the present scenario.

CM Shafi Sami sought to meet the chiefs of the BNP and the AL to discuss with them the related issues. The two leaders are learnt to have given green light to the administration to go ahead with the moves to curb terrorism keeping in view the national interests.

An important meeting was also held at the state guest house Padma yesterday afternoon to discuss the American request. Attorney General Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, CM Shafi Sami, Foreign Secretary Mohsin Ali Khan, Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs AKH Morshed, Director General (America) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms. Nasim Firdaus and other senior officials were present at the meeting.

Later, the outcome of the meeting was conveyed to the Chief Adviser when a three-member team consisting of the Attorney General, the Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and the Legal Counsel called on him.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 29, 2001

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