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US sticks to fresh polls: Mozena

Diplomatic Correspondent

USAID mission director Janina Jaruzelski speaks at a press conference at the American Centre in Dhaka on Monday. — New Age photo  USAID mission director Janina Jaruzelski speaks at a press conference at the American Centre in Dhaka on Monday. — New Age photo

US Ambassador Dan Mozena on Monday reiterated that Bangladesh ought to hold fresh elections as soon as possible.
He called for holding the dialogue immediately to find a way for holding the elections.
But he made no comments on the legitimacy of the incumbent government though the US has reservations about the January 5 general elections.
He stuck to Washington’s stand for immediate dialogue to find a way for holding new elections in Bangladesh as soon as possible.
The US envoy was responding to a string of questions from reporters at the American about the recent elections, the new government in Bangladesh and US assistance programme.
At the programme ambassador Mozena  introduced the new USAID mission director to Bangladesh Janina Jaruzelski.
It is not the question of recognizing the government but recognizing Bangladesh and ‘we would obviously continue to recognize Bangladesh,’ said ambassador Mozena replying to a reporter.
‘Nothing has changed,’ he said since the US government in a statement on January 6, a day after the election,  called for a dialogue immediately for holding fresh election as soon as possible. 
Asked about holding the fresh elections in Bangladesh by June as he had suggested earlier, Mozena said it was not for America to set the time line.
He said he had made the previous statement as monsoon starts in Bangladesh in June.
He said that he had made the statement some time back and he did not know whether it would be possible to follow that time line.
Asked whether Washington would change its stand after a recent survey by  US-based Democracy International said that Awami League would have won the recent parliamentary elections anyway, even if all the political parties had contested, Janina said it was important to understand that any survey is simply a snap shot in time and not the reflection of an election.
She said Democracy International’s survey is actually a dead heat between the two parties if one looks at margin of error of 2.5 percent of the survey.
She said the survey contains the messages for both parties. It contains the message that 37 per cent people believe that the recent elections were not credible and absolute majority people believe that there should be another election relatively soon and certainly before five years.
Besides, she said, 79 per cent people believe violence is wrong and violence is not the answer and people should not resort to violence to make their political points.
Asked about continuation of the US aid in Bangladesh, particularly in democracy and governance programmes in the changed political scenario, Janina said the US would continue the programmes focusing on assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable in the society disregarding the political situation.
She, however, said there would be realignment and refocusing of programmes relating to democracy and governance fronts with the same level of assistance, reducing assistance to parliament, specifically to Members of Parliament in the light of the current context.
They are concerned with local government where their assistance could be effective, she added.
Replying to another question she said the US would continue to spend approximately $ 200 million this year in Bangladesh like in the past year mainly through technical assistance and training programmes.
Janina who took oath as the mission director to Bangladesh on December 20, 2013 said her priority in Bangladesh would be on focusing on president Obama’s initiatives to Feed the Future which seeks too end hunger while improving health and nutrition, Global Climate Change and the Global Health Initiative as Bangladesh is a partner country for all the three major U.S. government development initiatives. 

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