Staff writer

Bangladesh appreciates Japan’s efforts to keep nuclear tests by India and Pakistan last May from triggering a bigger arms race, but it hopes more attention will be paid to alleviating poverty in the region, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad told The Japan Times Tuesday.

“We would like to see poverty-alleviation initiatives in South Asia getting higher priority than the bomb,” said Azad, who today will wrap up a six-day visit to Japan.

Azad said nuclear tests by India and Pakistan were “not a welcome event for our country,” adding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hashina visited New Delhi and Islamabad in an effort to defuse tension.

Azad said Bangladesh continues to need Japanese development assistance although it is committed to reducing its dependency on foreign aid. Japan’s official development assistance for Bangladesh will help “build its essential physical and social infrastructure which, in turn, could help attract significant private investment from Japan and elsewhere,” Azad said.

“Besides, Japanese ODA is helping the success of poverty-alleviation programs and other vital economic plans and initiatives,” he said.

Japan was the top aid donor to Bangladesh in 1996, and Bangladesh was the largest recipient of Japan’s aid in 1997, according to Foreign Ministry statistics.

Azad expressed concern over an international trend of declining foreign aid due to severe global economic situations. Japan’s ODA budget for fiscal 1998, which ends March 31, has been cut by about 10 percent from the previous fiscal year.

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