Tuesday, February 01, 2005



01.Tight security in Bangladesh for Southasia meeting
02. Political unrest clouds pre-SAARC summit meetings:


Tight security in Bangladesh for Southasia meeting

DHAKA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, was placed under
unprecedented security on Tuesday as it prepared to host a meeting of
south Asian leaders.

Soldiers with sniffer dogs and metal detectors swept hotels where
leaders and officials of the seven-member South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will stay during the Feb. 6-7 summit.

"We are taking no chances. Holding the SAARC meeting smoothly and
peacefully is our principal concern," said a police officer.

Senior officials of the SAARC countries -- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India,
Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- are already heading to
Dhaka for a string of pre-summit meetings, Bangladeshi officials said.

Security in the city was so intense partly because of Bangladesh's
political turmoil, officials said.

A three-day, opposition-led general strike has just ended. The strike,
and outbreaks of associated violence, largely paralysed the country.
About 200 people were injured.

The main opposition Awami League party and its allies called the
strike -- a common form of protest in Bangladesh -- after a grenade
attack at a party rally in the northeast on Thursday killed five
people, including a senior party official.

The attack was the latest in a string of violent incidents in
Bangladesh. Five months ago, Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina narrowly
escaped injury in a grenade attack at a rally in Dhaka in which 23
people were killed.


The Awami League has called for another three days of strikes on
Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to protest what it called a "sharply
worsening law and order situation" and to try to force the government
to resign.

The planned strikes would partly coincide with the meeting of South
Asian leaders.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia says her government will hold a
successful SAARC summit.

The SAARC summit was originalled planned to be held on January 9-11
but postponed after the Dec. 26 tsunami disaster battered several
member countries.

Bangladeshi officials declined to say if the summit could be affected
by Tuesday's sacking of the Nepali government by the king, who assumed

"We are discussing the Nepal situation and weighing its likely impact
on the summit," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Besides troops and police, hundreds of plain-clothed security
personnel have been deployed in the capital, a city of 10 million

The government has declared all educational institutions closed until
the summit is over.

"We have taken every possible measure to ensure 100 percent safety to
the dignitaries and delegates," said M. Lutfuzzaman Babar, state
minister for the interior.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said a high-level security team
was being sent from India to assess the security situation in
Bangladesh for the summit.



02. Political unrest clouds pre-SAARC summit meetings:

Dhaka, Feb 1 : Senior officials of South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries are meeting here Tuesday
to prepare the ground for the Feb 6-7 summit in Bangladesh amid an
opposition strike call on the summit opening day.

The two-day 26th session of the SAARC Programming Committee began at
the Sheraton Hotel Tuesday to deliberate on the reports of the SAARC
technical committees, working groups and regional centres.

The Awami League - the largest opposition party - has announced a
fresh protest including a nationwide general strike to coincide with
the opening day of SAARC summit on Feb 6.

The SAARC programming committee meeting Tuesday would submit its
recommendation to the Standing Committee comprising foreign
secretaries of the SAARC member countries that will meet on Feb 3 and

The 26th Council of Ministers, comprising foreign ministers of the
SAARC nations, will be held on Feb 5, a day ahead of the 13th SAARC

The government has already beefed up security in and around Dhaka
ahead of the summit.

More than 20,000 security personnel, including the paramilitary
Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Rapid Action Battalion and the police, will
be deployed in Dhaka for the summit, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police
Commissioner, S.M. Mizanur Rahman.

The Awami League had launched a series of protests after the Jan 27
grenade attack on their rally in Habiganj, 264 km from here, which
killed five people including a former minister.

Former prime minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has
announced a one-day strike on Feb 3 and a two-day strike on Feb 5 and

Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the opposition in parliament expressed
her concern over the security of the heads of government of the SAARC

"How will the government give protection to heads of state and
government of foreign countries when it fails to protect the life of
its parliament members?" Hasina asked.

The Awami League announced its forthcoming protest after the end of a
three-day strike that sparked widespread violence killing two people
and injuring several hundreds others across Bangladesh.

Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan, however, said that strikes would not
affect the upcoming SAARC summit. He said they would go ahead with the
summit despite the restive political situation.

"None of the member countries has shown any concern over the situation
and the delegation of the member countries have already arrived in the
capital to attend the Programming Committee meeting," Morshed Khan