DHAKA (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has lauded a drive in Bangladesh against corruption and terrorism as the country’s army-backed interim government prepares to hold a general election late next year.
“Both the countries have strong values in upholding democracy and were committed to work together against terrorism,” a Bangladesh foreign ministry statement quoted Bush as saying.
Bush was speaking when Bangladesh’s new ambassador to the United States, M. Humayun Kabir, presented his credentials at the White House on Wednesday, said the ministry statement, issued late on Thursday.
“The U.S. President has also welcomed the roadmap to general elections in Bangladesh and praised the caretaker government’s commitment to hold the elections in 2008,” the statement added.
Muslim majority Bangladesh, which supported Bush’s call for global action against terrorism, was itself rocked by a series of bomb attacks blamed on outlawed Islamist groups.
Six top leaders of the groups, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, were executed in March following their convictions, but security officials say their followers are still active and pursuing a campaign to force sharia law in the south Asian country.
The interim government headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed has launched a drive against corruption since taking office in January, so far detaining more than 170 key politicians, including former ministers.
One of them, former post and telecommunications minister Aminul Haque, was sentenced by a special court on Thursday to 31 years in prison for abetting attacks by the Islamists.
Two other ministers who served under former prime ministers Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina were also sentenced on Thursday to lengthy prison terms for corruption.
Hasina has been detained and kept in jail since July 16 over alleged charges of extortion. A court will hear the charges on August 16.
Khaleda’s elder son and political heir, Tareque Rahman, also faces charges of amassing huge wealth by illegal means.
Bush’s support for Dhaka’s efforts to combat terrorism and corruption would “strongly encourage the government to go even harder against the wrongdoers,” said a senior official who asked not to be identified.
The interim authority plans to hold the parliamentary elections at the end of 2008.
Additional reporting by Serajul Islam Quadir