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Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 16:04 GMT
Hasina upbeat on Pakistan ties
Bangladesh Independence Day on Saturday
Bangladesh Independence Day: Feelings of bitterness
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says her country's expulsion of a senior Pakistani diplomat should not affect ties with Islamabad.

She told reporters that Deputy High Commissioner Irfanur Rahman Raja had "hurt our feelings with audacious comments that hit at Bangladesh's independence and sovereignty".

I don't know if it will affect diplomatic ties with Pakistan and I believe it should not

Sheikh Hasina
In her first comments since his expulsion on Friday, she said she believed Pakistan would have done the same thing "if any foreign diplomat attacked its independence".

Dhaka expelled Mr Raja over remarks he made nearly three weeks ago about Bangladesh's 1971 independence war.

Irfanur Rahman Raja
Mr Raja (left) is bundled out of Bangladesh
He told a seminar that civilian massacres committed during the 1971 war between Bangladesh and Pakistan were provoked by "miscreants" from Bangladesh's current ruling party, and not by the Pakistani army.

He also questioned the number of people killed in the war. Bangladesh says that nearly three million people were killed in the war but Mr Raja, quoting a recently published report, put the number at about 26,000.

His remarks sparked nationwide protests.

No boycott

Asked if she supported the calls of some of her party members to boycott Pakistani goods, the prime minister said: "I don't think the relations between the two countries have reached that stage."

Mr Raja was the first senior foreign diplomat Bangladesh has expelled since independence.

Islamabad said the expulsion was "unjustified" and "not in keeping with the spirit of friendly relations between the two countries."

Pakistan had decided at the end of November to recall the diplomat, but he continued his stay in the country until his expulsion on Friday.

Bangladesh, formerly east Pakistan, won independence after a bitter and bloody war led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the current prime minister.

Ties between the two countries have been strained since Sheikh Hasina spoke out against military dictatorships at the United Nations this year and demanded that Pakistan apologise for the alleged 1971 war crimes.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | South Asia
Pakistan recalls Dhaka diplomat
12 Sep 00 | South Asia
Hasina surprised by Musharraf 'snub'
30 Aug 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh requests war report
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Pakistan after the coup: Special report
16 Dec 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh marks independence day
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