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Tension rises as Bangladesh sends another warship

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November 5, 2008

Myanmar-Bangladesh Maritime Dispute:
Tension rises as Bangladesh sends another warship

Bangladesh said on Tuesday it has deployed another warship to the Bay of Bengal and would send a top diplomat to Myanmar amid escalating tensions over gas exploration in disputed waters, reported AFP.

Foreign Minister Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told AFP a three-member team led by Bangladesh's foreign secretary would fly to Myanmar later in the day to try to resolve the row.

"They will discuss the latest situation with Myanmar officials and try to defuse the situation," he said.

The move comes a day after Bangladesh said it would take "all possible measures" to protect its territory, accusing Myanmar of encroaching on its sea-waters to explore gas.

Chowdhury also said he had warned Myanmar's ambassador to Dhaka that "all steps would be taken to protect the sovereignty and territory of Bangladesh."

A top navy official said a frigate had been sent to the disputed waters, joining the three warships already deployed 50 kilometres south of Saint Martin Island, close to the border between the two countries.

"We deployed a British-made frigate, the BNS Kopothakka, to step up patrols, as Myanmar's navy had not yet shifted its vessels engaged in exploration activities" he said.

"Other vessels in our fleet were kept on stand-by," he said.

Myanmar has discovered huge reserves of natural gas in the Bay of Bengal and has expressed its intention to carry out further exploration in a stretch of the sea also claimed by Bangladesh.

The two countries have held a series of meetings in the past year aimed at resolving the disputes over the maritime boundary, including a meeting last month in Dhaka of senior ministers from both countries.

Early this year Bangladesh divided its sea territory into 28 blocks and auctioned off the area to international oil companies as part of its efforts to end chronic gas shortages in the once gas-rich country. Myanmar immediately protested the move.

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