Pranab eases rice export retrictions to Bangla

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Dhaka, Dec 1: Soon on his arrival on a day's visit to cyclone-hit Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced lifting restriction on the export of additional 5,00,000 tons of rice to the country.

He also expressed India 's willingness to rebuild 10 villages in coastal areas severely affected by Cyclone 'Sidr.' Earlier, the Indian authorities had announced waiver on export of 50,000 tons of rice to Bangladesh in the wake of the cyclone disaster.

Mr Mukherjee is the first minister from any SAARC country to arrive here for expressing solidarity with the people of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Foreign Advisor Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury received him at the Zia International Airport. The Indian minister also handed over to him relief goods dispatched from New Delhi.

On his arrival statement to the press, Mr Mukherjee said, ''India attaches high importance to its relations with Bangladesh. We share not only a common history of struggle for freedom and liberation but also enduring feelings of civilised, fraternal, linguistic and cultural ties,'' adding ''it is natural that India always stand by Bangladesh in its efforts to rebuild the lives affected by the cyclone.'' During his a day, Mukherjee is scheduled to visit some worst- hit areas and hold meetings with leaders of the interim government.

Earlier, India pledged to donate 40,000 tons of rice and 10,000 tons of wheat worth 22 million dolar as Bangladesh is facing food deficit following the cyclone that heavily damaged standing crops of around 13,0000 metric tons. Presently, the country has a stock of about seven lakh (7,00,000) food grains from which about 2,00,000 metric tons will be spent on vulnerable Group Feeding programme for the cyclone victims for the next four months.

The Bangladesh government earlier sought food aid of 5,00,000 metric tons from the international community to meet the food scarcity and maintain food security of 10,00,000 metric tons before March next year. The government on its own will buy 5,00,000 metric tons.

The cyclone ''Sidr'' that lashed the country's 15 coastal districts left more than 32,00 people killed, destroyed standing crops on thousands acres of land, demolished innumerable houses and badly affected forest and infrastructure.


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