Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- The United States Sunday urged Bangladesh “not to politicize” the issue of trial of 1971 war criminals, saying that any politicization of the process could weaken the country’s democratic progress.

“The United States strongly believes that it [trial] should be credible. During my discussion with the officials here, I have urged them not to politicize the issue,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said at a press conference in the capital, Dhaka on the outcome of his meetings with the leaders from the government, opposition, business and civil society.

Mr. Blake, who came to Dhaka on Saturday on a two-day visit for the first time after being appointed as U.S. Assistant Secretary for the region, said Bangladesh just has had freest, fairest and transparent election, and democracy is being strengthened.

When asked how the U.S. assessed Dhaka’s move to hold trial of the war criminals, one of its major election pledges, he said, “It is important no action should be taken that [could make] the people of Bangladesh consider that it [trial] is a mechanism that weakens democracy and undermines progress.”

During his meeting with the officials, politicians and as well as various sections of the country, the senior U.S. state department official mainly focused on his country’s support for sustaining democracy, developing economy and countering terrorism.

About numerous custodial deaths of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) soldiers being investigated in connection with the recent mutiny in the border security force, the U.S. diplomat said the matter should be probed seriously and persons responsible for the deaths should be brought to justice.

When asked about extra-judicial killings, the U.S. state department senior official said that the issue had come up for discussion during his meetings with the officials here.

Asked about U.S. cooperation in Bangladesh’ maritime and land boundary security, Mr. Blake will not be specific about the nature of cooperation but said not only maritime and boundary security, the U.S. wants to cooperate in other areas like countering terrorism.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-15June09-3:31 am (BST)