DHAKA: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves a diplomatic crisis in China for a difficult mission in Bangladesh on Saturday where violence and a crackdown on the opposition threaten new instability.
Clinton, set to sign a new partnership agreement, is the first US secretary of state to visit Bangladesh since Colin Powell in 2003 amid chronic political infighting in the world's third largest Muslim-majority country.
The last few weeks have seen rallies and strikes over the disappearance of regional opposition figure Ilias Ali in mid-April, who supporters say was abducted by security forces. Four people have died in the unrest.
Following a rally in the capital last weekend and a series of explosions at a government building complex, police have since charged and arrested a number of senior figures from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
A US official said that Clinton would meet Saturday with both Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia, who have dominated Bangladesh's politics for decades and whose mutual dislike is as intense as it is personal.
The official said Clinton would promote democracy and good governance but look to broader interests with Bangladesh, a US partner in counter-terrorism efforts and the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping.
Recent problems for Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh's only Nobel peace prize winner and a personal friend of Clinton and her husband Bill, will be another thorny issue for the secretary of state to address in her meetings.
Yunus was forced out of his ground-breaking micro-credit bank last year and has since claimed he is the victim of a vendetta that will result in the government seizing his empire of social businesses aimed at alleviating poverty. Clinton will meet Yunus on Sunday, the US official said.
Clinton is due to leave Dhaka on Sunday for the eastern Indian city of Kolkata and then proceed to New Delhi for talks on expanding an alliance that has grown in its importance but is widely seen as having failed to blossom. (AFP)