Clinton "bets on Bangladesh" despite turmoil
By Andrew Quinn
DHAKA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "betting on Bangladesh" on Saturday as she began a visit to the impoverished South Asian country, gripped by growing tensions over the disappearance of an opposition leader.
Clinton flew to Dhaka after three days of diplomatic drama in Beijing as China and the United States tussled over the fate of a blind human rights activist holed up at the U.S. embassy.
While U.S. officials hope to highlight Washington's growing security and economic partnership with Bangladesh during Clinton's 24-hour visit, human rights are also sharply in focus as the government faces its worst period of political tension in years.
"We are betting on Bangladesh," Clinton told reporters ahead of meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her opposition rival, Begum Khaleda Zia.
"That's why it's very important to us to continue to urge the hard decisions that are necessary for the rule of law, for transparency," Clinton said. "We don't want to see any faltering or flagging. We want to see democracy flourish in Bangladesh."
Clinton is first senior U.S. official to visit Bangladesh since 2004, and U.S. officials depict the trip as part of a broad U.S. "pivot" to greater engagement across the Asia-Pacific region.
She will conclude the trip with visits to the Indian cities of Kolkata on Sunday and New Delhi early next week.
Clinton stressed her personal connections to Bangladesh, which she visited in 1995 and which her husband, former President Bill Clinton, visited in 2000 on a landmark first trip by a U.S. president. Continued...