Vol. 5 Num 8 Fri. June 04, 2004  
Front Page

Rumsfeld to ask for troops to Iraq
US defence secretary arrives tomorrow

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday said he would fly to Dhaka tomorrow on a brief 14-hour visit for talks with the Bangladesh leaders about 'their military's possible interest in peacekeeping operations either in Iraq or Afghanistan'.

He made the remarks at an on-board news conference as his E4-B modified 747 jumbo jet that serves as a flying national command post equipped for use in wartime soared over the Atlantic on his Asian trip.

Rumsfeld said he did not intend to formally request Bangladesh leaders that they send troops to either country -- Iraq or Afghanistan, UNB news agency quoted an AP dispatch from Singapore as saying.

The defence secretary flew 22 hours non-stop from Washington to Singapore to attend an international security conference, the Shangri-La Dialogue, where he is scheduled to deliver a speech on US security policy on Asia and the Pacific on Saturday, before flying to Dhaka.

It will be the second top-level visit from the Bush administration in a year since Secretary of State Colin Powell's tour of Dhaka on June 19 last year when he asked the Khaleda Zia government to consider troops deployment in war-torn Iraq.

Earlier, the foreign ministry said Rumsfeld would separately hold talks with Khaleda, who also holds the defence portfolio and Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan.

"Rumsfeld is expected to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of common concern during the talks," a ministry press release said, adding, "The visit is reflective of the continued process of interaction at various levels between Bangladesh and the United States."

Rumsfeld, who will be accompanied by a 42-personnel media team and officials, is also scheduled to hold a joint press briefing with Morshed, after calling on Khaleda and Morshed.

He will leave on Sunday morning after overnight stay in Dhaka.

Some left and Islamic organisations have announced protest rallies in Dhaka for today against Rumsfeld's visit and human rights activists sent a legal notice to the government against a probable agreement to commit troops to Iraq as part of a US-led force.

The main opposition Awami League has not shown any signs to withdraw its 24-hour hartal that coincides with the visit. The AL had also enforced a hartal during Colin Powell's visit.

In separate statements yesterday, the Workers Party, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), 11-party alliance, Islamic Constitution Movement and Anti-imperialist Democratic Unity urged all to resist Rumsfeld's visit.

Samajtantrik Chhatra Front and Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee also protested the visit of the US defence secretary.