Clinton backs microcredit pioneer Yunus in Bangladesh

Grameen Bank founder Mohammed Yunus with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Dhaka, 6 May Mr Yunus, who has frosty relations with the Bangladeshi government, met Mrs Clinton on Saturday

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly given her backing to microcredit pioneer Mohammed Yunus, urging Bangladesh not to undermine the independence of the Grameen Bank.

Mr Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for setting up Grameen, which makes small loans to the poor, mainly women, to help them start their own businesses.

But he was removed last year as head of the bank - Bangladesh said he violated the law on the maximum retirement age.

Mrs Clinton met Mr Yunus on Sunday.

"We do not want to see any action taken that would in any way undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank or its unique organisational structure where the poor women themselves are the owners," Mrs Clinton told an audience in the capital Dhaka.

"I don't want anything that would in any way undermine what has been a tremendous model."

Mr Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in the 1970s, helping millions out of poverty with small loans. He won the Nobel prize in 2006.

The Bangladesh central bank removed Prof Yunus from his post last March, saying his continuing role at Grameen Bank violated laws that state public servants must retire at the age of 60.

Mr Yunus appealed but stood down last May after the supreme court rejected his case.

His supporters said his dismissal was politically motivated.

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