LTTE fears colour Sri Lanka president’s Nepal visit

March 2nd, 2009 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 2 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday began his three-day state visit to Nepal amidst an unprecedented four-tier security measure in view of the dreaded Tamil Tigers’ well-known capability to carry out assassinations outside the island nation.

Traffic was diverted from roads leading to the Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu and over 1,500 personnel from Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and Nepal Army have been deployed to ensure the security of the 63-year-old Sri Lankan president whose government is currently locked in a battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Rajapaksa, the highest-level dignitary to visit Nepal since 2002, when Nepal’s King Gyanendra began controlling the government, arrived on a chartered flight of the national carrier, Sri Lankan, that inaugurates direct air services between Colombo and Kathmandu.

He is accompanied by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Minister for Export Development and International Trade G.L. Peiris.

Besides accepting Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav’s invitation to visit Nepal, the trip was also dictated by Sri Lanka being the current chair of regional bloc SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) whose secretariat is in Kathmandu.

Rajapaksa, the chief of a Buddhist-majority nation, will fly to Lumbini in southern Nepal to visit the birthplace of the Buddha and other Buddhist pilgrim sites there, including the monastery built and maintained there by the Sri Lankan government.

During his visit, the Sri Lankan president will sign two agreements with the Maoist government of Nepal, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kathmandu said.

“The two governments are signing a new air services agreement,” said Sisira Kothalawala, minister counsellor at the embassy. “Thrice a week, Sri Lankan and Nepal’s national carrier Nepal Airlines will start direct Colombo-Kathmandu flights.”

Also on the anvil is an agreement to set up a ministerial-level joint commission for educational, cultural and agricultural cooperation.

In Kathmandu, Rajapaksa will also visit the SAARC Secretariat and the Anand Kutty Vihar, a Buddhist monastery.

High-security cordons have been drawn around the airport, the Nepal president’s office where Rajapaksa will pay a visit during the day and the Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza, where he will be staying.

Last year, the Soaltee had been chosen by former US president Jimmy Carter for his stay when he had come to Nepal to observe the April election.

Besides meeting Yadav, Rajapaksa will also hold consultations with Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav.

In view of the tight security arrangements, the Sri Lankan president will not hold any interaction with the media, the embassy said.

The presidential visit is expected to boost tourism in Nepal, promoting it as a major Buddhist destination, and greater cooperation among the SAARC member states in fighting terrorism and transborder crime.

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