US welcomes Army Chief's assurance of having no political ambition

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Dhaka, Sep 19 (UNI) US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Gastright who came here on a two-day visit has welcomed Bangladesh Army Chief General Moeen's assurances that he and the army do not have political ambition.

Speaking at a meeting with newspaper editors at the residence of US CDA Geeta Pasi, he welcomed the relaxation of the ban on internal politics as an important step along the road towards restoration of full democracy, and looked forward to further progress in this regard in the near future.

''I encouraged our friends in the government to remain committed to their reform agenda, and also highlighted the interest of the international community in what was happening here in Bangladesh,'' said Mr Gastright, who held meetings with the Chief Advisor, the Foreign Advisor, the Army Chief, leaders of the business community and civil society yesterday and today.

The US official, however, expressed his government's concerns regarding human rights and due process for those detained under the state of emergency, whether on corruption charges or accused of other violations of the emergency rules.

''We realise that as Bangladesh moves closer towards a full democracy, outreach to the business community can assure stability; communication with the international community can provide assistance; and interaction with civil society and NGOs can provide accountability,'' he said, adding that a vibrant and free media is also a crucial aspect in moving towards restoration of full democracy.

Mr Gastright, who is scheduled to meet representatives of political parties tonight, said the parties have an important role to play in the future of Bangladesh and he is pleased that the dialogue with the Election Commission on necessary reforms has begun.

Referring to his meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Dr Shamsul Huda yesterday, he said they discussed the implementation of the roadmap towards elections, and reiterated US willingness to assist.

Terming Bangladesh-US bilateral relations as excellent, Mr Gastright emphasised Washington's desire to build on this bilateral relationship in the months remaining before the Caretaker Government holds elections.

About his meeting with the Army Chief, he said he had an excellent meeting with the Chief of Army staff and congratulated him on the important role that the Joint Forces are playing in support of the caretaker government.

''I welcomed General Moeen's repeated assurances that he and the army do not have any political ambitions,'' he said, adding ''We discussed ways in which our militaries can strengthen their cooperation, particularly in the war on terror.'' UNI

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