President Ahmadinejad arrives in Colombo on two-day visit

April 28th, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 28 (IANS) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Colombo Monday evening on a two-day state visit during which he is expected to inaugurate two projects, including a Tehran-funded hydropower project. The Iranian President was scheduled to arrive in Colombo from Pakistan at 5.30 p.m. but his flight was delayed by nearly an hour and 40 minutes.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, flanked by several cabinet ministers, personally received Ahmadinejad at the Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake. A red carpet welcome was accorded to the Iranian president.

“The Iranian president was also offered a 21-gun salute and a naval guard of honour at the international airport,” the official said, adding that Ahmadinejad will be holding talks with Rajapaksa, who would later host him a banquet dinner at the President’s House.

The Iranian President will also hold talks with Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

Stringent security measures are in place for the Iranian president’s visit. Heavily armed security force personnel can be seen guarding strategic roads and junctions in the capital.

On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad will meet leaders from all faiths in this multi-ethnic island and take part in a religious ceremony, before flying to Wellawaya in Moneragala district. There he will inaugurate an Iranian-funded $450 million Uma Oya hydro power project, which is expected to add 100 MW of power to the national grid.

The other major project due to be inaugurated Tuesday by the Iranian president is the expansion of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery near Colombo, which will triple its oil refinery capacity from 50,000 to 150,000 barrels per day.

Sri Lanka imports all its oil needs, of which nearly 70 percent is Iranian light crude.

President Ahmadinejad will leave for India Tuesday noon after a 17-hour visit here.

The Iranian president’s visit to the Asian countries comes weeks after US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said they were working to extend sanctions against Tehran’s alleged nuclear programme, with Washington accusing it of undermining its efforts in Iraq and of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

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