NATIONAL

Dhaka terms U.S. request unwarranted

DHAKA March 30. The Bangladesh Government has turned down a United States' request to downsize the diplomatic staff of the Iraqi embassy, and termed the request as "unwarranted'' and "illegal.''

``Yes, we received an informal request, but we formally told them that Bangladesh is a sovereign country and pursues an independent foreign policy. We take decision on our own considering our sovereign and national interest,'' the Foreign Minister, Morshed Khan, told reporters.

The Minister was speaking after a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador in Dhaka, Mary Ann Peters, who was summoned to the Foreign Office on Saturday.

Washington made the request to Dhaka on the plea that some Muslim countries have cut down the number of Iraqi diplomats in their countries. "The Ambassador was called to make our position very clear that Bangladesh wants to see an immediate end to the Iraq war and unwarranted killings of civilians.'' ``We registered our serious concern about the lingering war and the effect on the civilian population.'' Asked if Dhaka was taking a stand against Washington, Mr. Khan replied: ``No, we are taking a stand against war... Bangladesh is always against war.''

Mr. Khan was critical about the foreign media for dishing out unfounded stories about the war.

"Unfortunately, the foreign media are losing credibility,'' he said and hoped that they would be more careful before dissemination of reports.

Humanitarian relief

Bangladesh, meanwhile, decided to despatch foodstuff and medicine worth $ 2 million in emergency relief supplies for the Iraqis in distress amid war.The humanitarian relief that would include medicine, tea, biscuit, saline and drinking water would be sent through the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent Society or internationally recognised similar charities.Expressing solidarity with the peace-loving people of the world, Bangladeshis are staging demonstrations and rallies.Apart from stopping the war, the Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, called for launch of relief and rehabilitation and reform activities in Iraq under the U.N. leadership as per international laws and resolutions.

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