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Bangladesh ready to evacuate citizens from Middle East

Bangladesh is ready to evacuate "a large number" of its nationals working in the Middle East if a war breaks out in Iraq.

Gulf News

Bangladesh is ready to evacuate "a large number" of its nationals working in the Middle East if a war breaks out in Iraq.

"We've a contingency plan to evacuate Bangladeshis living in Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Iraq, if they feel their lives are endangered," Foreign Secretary, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, told reporters in Dhaka yesterday.

He said it is difficult to say how many people might need to be evacuated, but added there are preparations to evacuate "a large number" if necessary.

Asked about Bangladesh's stance on Iraq, Chowdhury said Dhaka wants a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

"We hope the UN will play a role in finding a solution to disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Regarding Bangladesh's position on the proposed OIC meeting in Kuala Lumpur on February 26 on the sidelines of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) conference, the foreign secretary said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed had invited Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to attend the meeting to discuss the Iraq situation.

"It will be an informal consultation on Iraq, and the decision on her attending will be taken soon," he said.

Khaleda is expected to leave for Kuala Lumpur on February 23 to attend the conference on February 24-25.

Asked about Bangladesh's stance on NAM in the changed global scenario, Chowdhury said Dhaka remains committed to the organisation and its basic principles of peace, stability and reduction of armed conflict, disarmament and a just global economic order.

He said nothing has been planned yet on bilateral meetings.

The foreign secretary said his country wants to follow the procedures agreed between Dhaka and New Delhi in dealing with the illegal movement of people from the two countries.

"Any deviation will be tantamount to deviation from the written understanding between the two countries. We remain committed to adhering to that agreement in dealing with the illegal migrants, if any, from the two countries," Chowdhury said.

He said Bangladesh has not changed its policy about the issue of illegal migrants to India. "We will follow the laid down procedure if there is any illegal movement from the two countries."

The foreign secretary said that it was not an agreement, but a joint communique signed by Dhaka and New Delhi in 1992 during Khaleda's visit to India.

Paragraph 11 mentions the procedure of how to deal with illegal immigrants from either India or Bangladesh, Chowdhury said, adding there is no scope for misinterpretation.

About the reported activities of so-called 'Banga Sena' and 'Bangabhumi Andolon', Chowdhury said Bangladesh will not tolerate any statement or move against its territory or sovereignty.

"We're a unified and cohesive country. Any attempt or action that affects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh is totally unacceptable," Chowdhury said.

On a question about Foreign Minister Morshed Khan's recent visit to New Delhi, he said Khan's talks with his Indian counterpart Yashwant Sinha were "very useful, productive and timely" as they addressed all questions freely and agreed to resolve issues within the agreed mechanisms between the two countries.

The Bangladesh-India foreign secretary-level meeting will be held here in April to discuss the issues, he said.