Feature Article

Rajapaksa strengthens ties with Iran

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 April 2008, 10:24 GMT]
Iranian President Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who arrived in Colombo Monday night on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, after his 4-hour mission to Pakistan, was scheduled to inaugurate two major projects, a hydro power plant in Moneragala and an aviation oil refinery, in Sri Lanka with USD 2 billion funding from his country. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a brief five-hour visit en route from Colombo back to Tehran, on Tuesday, as media reports in India said that the Iran issue has cast a shadow over Indo-U.S. relations.

Iranian President in Sri Lanka
Bilataral meeting between Sri Lanka and Iran

Mahinda Rajapaksa with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa receives the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at his official residence in Colombo [Photo: Sri Lanka Government Information Department]
Iranian President in Sri Lanka
Press briefing by Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President in Sri Lanka
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Mahinda Rajapaksa's family
Mahinda Rajapaksa with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahinda Rajapaksa shaking hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President in Sri Lanka
Iranian President participates at Religious Leaders' meeting
Iranian President in Sri Lanka
Iranian President participates at Religious Leaders' meeting
"Sri Lanka will reap immense benefits from Iranian assistance as a result of six Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) inked between the two countries," Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was quoted as saying in a news release issued by the Government Information Department of Sri Lanka on Tuesday when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in a ceremony launching the USD 750 million estimated modernization of the Sapugaskanda Petroleum Refinery, conducted on a soft loan grant from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Meanwhile, Iranian Minister of Trade participated at the launch of work on the Uma Oya Multipurpose Scheme in Wellawaya, the longest ever hydro-tunnel to be built in the country, according to the information department.

"Both projects are funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the tune of over US$ 1.9 billion, which was pledged during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's State visit to Iran in November last year," the news release added. Ahmadinejad also took part in a Religious Leaders' Meeting hosted by S. Alavi Mowlana, the governor of the Western Province.

The Iranian president who met with his counterpart in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, on Monday, before arriving in Colombo, had signaled that the issues related to the multi-billion-dollar 2700 km Iran to India natural gas pipeline project through Pakistan, opposed by the United States, have been resolved.

"India and Iran have civilisational and economic ties," India's National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan said on 21 April announcing the visit by the Iranian president to India while speaking at the IISS-Citi India Global Forum. The former U.S. Ambassador to India, Robert balckwill, who also addressed the same Forum said that Iran had the potential to be a divisive issue in Indo - U.S. relations.

The following day, The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in response to question on a comment by the official Spokesman of the US State Department, tartly said: "neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace. It is important that the genius of each nation living in a particular region is respected and allowed to flower to meet the expectations of enriching relations with neighbours".

The Indian statement further said: "Both nations are perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship with the appropriate degree of care and attention."

"Despite a new round of UN sanctions over its nuclear activities, Iran still thinks it is ahead," wrote BBC's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds in early March, 2008.

"The enemies of the nation and bullying powers do not dare to admit that this nation has won in the nuclear field," Reynolds quoted the Iranian president as saying.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has strengthened his ties with Iran as India also pledged a soft loan package of $100 million for Sri Lankan defence department to buy arms and ammunition as revealed by India's leading business daily Economic Times, on Sunday.


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