US 'happy' with Bangladesh's interim government
Dhaka, April 17 (IANS) US Ambassador Patricia Butenis praised Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, the head of Bangladesh's caretaker government, for indicating a timeframe for holding elections even as state officials clinched a departure "deal" with former prime minister Khaleda Zia.
The caretaker government "has attained a lot of achievements in a short time and is enjoying tremendous popular support," Butenis was quoted as saying.
Media reports of the "courtesy call" paid by her Monday, however, made no mention of fast-moving political developments elsewhere in the country.
Zia has agreed to leave Bangladesh with most of her family members as part of a government "deal" concluded late Monday, while her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, is currently in the US.
Butenis appreciated Ahmed's Saturday address to the nation when he said the elections would take place in end-2008. She said the US government "is satisfied with the caretaker government's performance," United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency said.
A pro-active diplomat, Butenis has been in the thick of the developments leading to and after the general elections, due Jan 11, were called off amidst weeks of political turmoil. She was one of the diplomats engaging various parties and trying to resolve their differences.
US officials have expressed their keenness on Bangladesh holding elections and returning to democracy. However, the emergence of an un-elected interim government that is widely perceived as "army-backed" and "army-guided", has been a point of criticism.
The New York Times last Saturday for the first time criticised the Bush administration for "ignoring" this phenomenon. It also cautioned the new Bangladeshi authorities that taking recourse to the "Pakistani path" of military rule was no answer to Islamic radicalism.
Butenis said the Election Commission is carrying out its jobs, including electoral reforms, as per its commitment, the Daily Star said.
"We are pleased with the activities of the Election Commission and have offered assistance to this organisation," the envoy said.
She said the US government "is observing the caretaker government's activities positively". She added that if a new Bangladesh ambassador to Washington is appointed, bilateral cooperation would be further enhanced.
In response, Ahmed said the Election Commission needed logistic support, and "a coordinated cooperation of the development partners will be helpful".
The Ahmed government has decided to seek foreign funding for carrying out "electoral reforms" that includes updating of electoral rolls and preparation and issuing of photo identity cards for the voters.
Ahmed assured Butenis that "the task of the Election Commission towards holding elections and the government's other activities, including keeping wheels of the economy moving, will go simultaneously".
He also informed Butenis about his meeting with US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Richard Boucher in New Delhi on the sidelines of the recent 14th SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit, reports said.