Rumsfeld arrives in Dhaka today |
Protesters against sending troops to Iraq
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrives in Dhaka today on a 14-hour whirlwind visit to discuss possible Bangladeshi interest in sending peacekeepers to Iraq and Afghanistan amid protests by left parties and Islamic groups yesterday.
Security has been tightened in and around the capital, especially around the Sonargaon Hotel, where Rumsfeld will spend his only night here.
Rumsfeld on a visit to Asia told journalists travelling with him on Thursday night that he would not formally ask Bangladesh to commit troops to Iraq under a US-led force.
Foreign Minister Morshed Khan said Dhaka would not send peacekeepers to any country to fight for a partisan cause, a day before Rumsfeld arrives on his E4-B modified 747 jumbo jet at 5:00pm from an Asian security conference in Singapore, accompanied by 42 media people and other US officials.
Morshed will receive him at Zia International Airport with other dignitaries.
Rumsfeld will hold official talks with Morshed and call on Prime Minister Khaleda Zia before he speaks at a joint press briefing with the foreign minister at the Sonargaon Hotel later in the day. Rumsfeld is scheduled to leave Dhaka early tomorrow morning.
His visit coincides with a 24-hour countrywide hartal from 6:00am today the main opposition Awami League and its labour front enforce to protest the killing of AL lawmaker Ahsanullah Master and a grenade attack on British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury.
The visit replays US Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Bangladesh that coincided with an opposition general strike on June 19 last year.
Leftist parties yesterday protested Rumsfeld's visit and demanded the government should not send troops to Iraq.
The 11-party held a rally in Muktangan, where Gono Forum General Secretary Saifuddin Ahmed Manik, accusing Rumsfeld of war crime in Iraq, said people do not welcome him to Bangladesh.
"The BNP-led coalition government kept mum when the British and US forces invaded Iraq and still don't speak out against the crimes of US forces," Manik said, adding if Bangladeshi troops are sent to Iraq, the 11-party will launch a countrywide movement.
Communist Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim demanded that Rumsfeld be tried in the International Court of Justice for his "crime against humanity".
"The US wants Bangladesh to send troops to Iraq as American soldiers are facing strong resistance from Iraqi freedom fighters," Selim added.
Morshed Ali, convenor of the 11-party, said the US opposed the independence of Bangladesh -- the reason Bangladeshi troops should not be committed to Iraq to help the US forces.
Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Inu) brought out protest processions.
News agency Reuters reports: Islamic activists burned American flags and shouted anti-US slogans to protest Rumsfeld's visit and stress their opposition to Bangladeshi troops going to Iraq.
The leader of one radical Muslim group said any troop dispatch would be vehemently opposed.
"If Bangladesh sends troops to Iraq to please the United States...the revolutionary Muslim people of Bangladesh will resist the move at all costs," Jafrulla Khan, secretary of the Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, told followers outside the Baitul Mukarram Mosque.