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U.S. Backs Bangladesh on Treaty

October 19, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton promised Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday support for an extradition treaty that could lead to deportation of three men convicted in Bangladesh of killing her father, the country’s first prime minister.

Hasina, who says the men should be deported even without a treaty, described Clinton’s response to her on the issue as ``very positive, very positive.″

``Killers shouldn’t get any refuge from any democratic country,″ Hasina said after a 45-minute meeting with Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno. Hasina also met separately with Reno prior to the White House meeting.

Three Bangladeshis believed to be living in the United States are among 15 former army officers convicted in 1998 for the murder of her father, Prime Minister Sheik Mujibur Rahman, in an Aug. 15, 1975, coup.

The three are identified by Bangladeshi officials as Sharful Hussein, A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed and Rashed Choudhury.

Hasina, on the first visit of a Bangladeshi prime minister to Washington, had extended her stay to meet with Clinton. An original appointment Wednesday had to be canceled as the president attended memorial services for 17 sailors killed in the bombing of the USS Cole after returning from the emergency Mideast summit in Egypt.

A four-page joint U.S.-Bangladesh statement on their talks declared hope for relations to ``deepen and broaden″ on a wide range of trade, environmental, nuclear proliferation, peacekeeping and other issues.

Hasina earlier said in an Associated Press interview that she is trying to convince U.S. officials to lift trade quotas and tariffs on Bangladeshi goods, including more than just textiles, which make up the primary export to the country’s biggest trading partner.

The joint statement said their meeting touched on the extradition issue, declaring both leaders ``agreed to facilitate an early conclusion of work on it.″

Senior administration officials, briefing reporters on the talks, said Clinton understood ``the depth of feelings, the importance and the tragic nature″ of her concern and promised to do everything he could appropriately to help.

U.S. officials believe an extradition treaty is needed to govern deportations such as those Hasina is seeking. Information requested of Bangladesh was received only recently, said White House spokesman Jake Siewart.

``I suspect the Department of Justice will work with Bangladesh on such a treaty so it can be put in place,″ Siewert said.

A group of demonstrators from the U.S. branch of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party marched in front of the White House as Hasina and Clinton met, chanting, ``Hasina killer.″

``Thousands of political workers have been jailed. Hundreds have been killed. Elections are rigged,″ said Abdul Shamrat of New York, senior vice president of the party’s U.S. organization. He said nearly 500,000 Bangladeshis live in the United States.

Hasina says her government is a democracy that respects human rights.

The opposition wants Hasina to resign immediately and hold a new election. She said in the AP interview Tuesday that she has only eight months more to serve and has no intention of resigning.

Still among the world’s most impoverished nations, Bangladesh relies heavily on its trade with the United States. Hasina noted that 37 percent of total exports go to the United States, more than to any other country, including $2 billion in textiles and readymade clothing in 1998-99.

``The expansion of ready-made garments exports to the U.S. is, however, impeded by the quota on 31 categories of garments,″ Hasina said Wednesday in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, insisting that Bangladesh should enjoy preferential treatment because it is a less-developed country.

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On the Net: CIA Factbook site: http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/bg.html

Bangladesh mission at the United Nations: http://www.un.int/bangladesh/

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