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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Visit of Nicholas Burns And

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Media Reaction: Visit of Nicholas Burns and
Gastright, Iraq; Dhaka

Summary: Independent English language newspaper "Bangladesh
Observer" commends the U.S. for its stand in favor religious
minorities, especially the Ahmadiya community in Bangladesh.

On Iraq, centrist English "News Today" says that there
cannot be any real transfer of sovereignty in Iraq unless
occupation forces leave the country.

1. The Visit of Nicholas Burns and Gastright
"US Policy And Ahmadiyas"
Independent English language newspaper "Bangladesh Observer"
editorially comments (6/30):
On the heels of US Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Nicholas Burns' visit to Dhaka comes the visit by Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia John A
Gastright. In the second week of May last Christina Rocca,
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, was also on a
diplomatic tour to Bangladesh. Their visits plus the US
Ambassador Harry K Thomas's departure certainly signal
reorganization, if not changes, in the US policy towards
Bangladesh. Nicholas Burns is the highest official after ex-
Foreign Secretary Collin Powell who came to Dhaka in 2003,
to have flown to Dhaka on a diplomatic tour. During his
stay, the Under Secretary raised most of the issues the
alliance government is ill at ease to confront. But the
message that emerged from reports carried in our press is
his expression of hope for a free and fair general election
to be held next year. It is believed his was a kind of fact-
finding mission which will enable him to prepare a report on
Bangladesh. His report and those submitted by others who
have visited or are visiting Bangladesh will be the basis of
the US government's policy towards Bangladesh
If Nicholas Burns has focused in general all the irritating
issues along with the positive developments now taking place
in our country, Gastright has taken up specific issues for
immediate addressing. It is good to know that he held a
meeting with the Ahmadyia leaders and did some straight
talks. We have time and again appealed to the government to
effectively address the problem facing the community but to
no avail. Neither criticism nor constructive suggestions
could move the government to act decisively against the
zealots spearheaded by an extremist outfit called Khatme
Nabuat. The government, moreover, gave the impression that
it has a tacit support for the fanatic movement against the
sect. It made a blunder (or was it part of its policy?) when
it capitulated to the Khatme Nabuat's demand for banning the
Ahmadiya publications. That was an encouragement for the
religious bigots to press for their more outrageous demand
for declaring the Ahmadiyas non-Muslims.
The government did not-or better say could not-give in to
the demand in the face of growing criticism from the press,
civil and human rights groups, diplomats from different
embassies and high-commissions in Dhaka and the
international community. The Khatme Nabuat also pushed ahead
more aggressively with their agenda. Their movement grew so
violent that the police had to pull down the sign boards
from the Ahmadyia mosques to be replaced by ones on which
'place of worship' is written. What prompted the government
to follow the policy of pampering the religious
fundamentalists is best known to it, but it has caused
irreparable damage to the country's secular character and
image abroad.
We are happy that the US Deputy Assistant Secretary has
called the spade a spade and by doing so, he has given a
message to the Bangladesh government. Although belated, yet
it is likely to have some effect on the alliance government.
We can surely expect Gastright to take a similar stand
during his official meetings with government functionaries
here. The ban on the Ahmadiya publication should be
withdrawn immediately. Will the Deputy Assistant Secretary
make an issue of it? He has made known his feeling by saying
that the 'government has the ability to protect' the
Ahmadyias. His intention is clear. If he presses for the
withdrawal of the ban on Ahmadyia publications, he will know
how serious the government is to uphold the rights of the
minority people, including the Ahmadyias. He will have done
a much-needed service for an oppressed community.
2. Iraq
"The fairy tale of power transfer in Iraq"
Centrist English language newspaper "News Today"
editorially comments (6/30):

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By the time this appears in print, President George W. Bush
would have delivered his "important" speech marking the
first anniversary of "transfer of sovereignty" in Iraq. One
year ago this day, a new group of indigenous Iraqis had
taken over following an election which many across the
world considered as selection by the occupying powers. Not
really to hand over power to the Iraqis but to hoodwink
world opinion in the name of democracy. The transition from
Allawais to Jaffaris meant no real change because power
still lies with the occupiers. How a country can be
sovereign with tens of thousands of alien troops occupying
it? In exchange of some crumbs of power all that the new
leaders do is signing on the dotted lines. Decisions are
made in Washington. So much for the fairy tale of transfer
of sovereignty.

That the United States under President Bush would be a
bully was never in doubt but what is amazing is the way the
rest of the world allows itself to be bullied. Iraq
continues to bleed.

It is clear that the Bush administration is now clueless
about what to do in Iraq. President Bush himself admits
that the situation is difficult but he has no solution to
offer. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thinks it would be
years before insurgency in Iraq can be wiped out. All these
perhaps point to an indefinite occupation of that oil-rich
country. And with the election of a hardliner President in
neighboring Iran the situation is much more complicated and
dangerous now.

There cannot be any real transfer of sovereignty until
occupation forces leave Iraq. So observing the anniversary
is a joke. Heavyweights in Washington may not feel ashamed
but what is shocking is the world reaction. The UN has
washed its hands off as if it has no role in protecting
human lives. All we can do is expressing our solidarity
with valiant Iraqis who are fighting a heroic war of


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