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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK

World: South Asia

Bangladesh donors urge end to confrontation

Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries

By David Chazan in Dhaka

Bangladesh's main aid donors are due to meet in Paris on Monday to review progress in development programmes.

The meeting follows a general strike called by the opposition to highlight its political grievances.

International donors have strongly criticised both the government and the opposition for the continuing political unrest.

The United States, the European Union and the World Bank have urged the government and the opposition to avoid confrontation and work together to alleviate poverty.

But the acrimony between them was highlighted by the government's refusal to allow opposition representataives to attend an investors' forum on the sidelines of the Paris meeting.

Losing control

The donors have complained about what they say is a deterioration in law and order. The US State Department said the authorities appear to be losing control over the police, who are accused of corruption and involvement in killings and rapes.

The donors want the government to increase its revenue. It is estimated to have lost $1.5bn in unpaid taxes last year, almost equivalent to the total foreign aid received.

The government is also under pressure to reduce unpaid bank debts, now amounting to $3bn, and to speed up the privatisation of loss making state owned industry.

In any case, no new aid will be pledged in Paris. The purpose of the meeting is simply to review current development programmes.

Diplomats say there are no moves yet to reduce assistance - in fact it is more likely to increase - but, they say, in the longer term it may become difficult to keep pouring aid into Bangladesh if it does not do more to help itself.

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