Visiting Iranian president hails ties with Sri Lanka(Lead)

April 29th, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 29 (IANS) Hailing the bilateral ties with Sri Lanka, visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed his country’s commitment “to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the island nation”, officials said Tuesday. “Iran and Sri Lanka were committed to protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other, and it was very clear that cooperation in the political, economic, and cultural spheres between Sri Lanka and Iran would benefit both countries and also help in strengthening regional cooperation,” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

“We are seeking justice and fair play in the world and Sri Lanka and Iran have agreed to cooperate in all spheres for the mutual benefit of each other,” said the Iranian president .

Amidst tight security, the Iranian president arrived in Colombo Monday evening from Pakistan on a two-day visit and was accorded a red carpet welcome by his Sri Lankan counterpart.

Six bilateral agreements for a range of political, economic and cultural cooperation were inked between the two countries Monday night in Colombo, before the two presidents held one-to-one discussions for 45 minutes.

According to official sources, the agreements included the “establishment of a political consultative mechanism between the two countries, Iranian development assistance to Sri Lanka and agreements on financial assistance for the expansion and modernising of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery and the $450-million Uma Oya hydropower project at Wellawaya”.

After signing the agreements, Ahmadinejad said: “Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has made great stride in the scientific and technical spheres and was ready to share the benefits of these achievements with its friends, including Sri Lanka.”

Although, Ahmadinejad was scheduled to inaugurate the Tehran-funded hydropower project at Wellawaya in the Moneragala district early Tuesday, officials said it was cancelled due to bad weather.

It was later inaugurated by top members of the Iranian presidential delegation in the presence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake.

The Iranian president, accompanied by his Sri Lankan counterpart, however, attended the launch of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery modernising project here.

Ahmadinejad is scheduled to leave Colombo Tuesday noon for India on the next leg of his south Asia visit.

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