Sri Lanka eyeing energy boost from Iran: officials

Sri Lanka is counting on Tehran to boost the island's energy supplies and ink several other deals during a two-day visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad starting later Monday, officials said.

Sri Lanka eyeing energy boost from Iran: officials
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse was to greet Ahmadinejad and his 15-member delegation when they land at Bandaranaike International Airport.

Ahmadinejad was due to hold talks with Rajapakse, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

On Tuesday, he will meet leaders from all faiths in this multi-ethnic island and take part in a religious ceremony. Ahmadinejad will then move on to flag off 1.5 billion dollars worth of infrastructure projects.

Iran has agreed to fund the 450-million-dollar Uma Oya hydro power project which is slated to produce 100 megawatts of electricity annually.

Tehran is also to pay for a 700-million-dollar upgrade of Sri Lanka's sole oil refinery. Sri Lanka plans to triple its refinery capacity to 150,000 barrels per day from 50,000 barrels per day.

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

Colombo-based newspapers welcomed Ahmadinejad's visit as a "new chapter in Lanka-Iran ties".

"Iranian president brings bounty to Sri Lanka," said the state-run Dinamina newspaper. "Iranian boost for Lankan power sector," said the privately-run Island newspaper.

"The visit... will enhance the growing political, economic and cultural links between the two friendly countries," state-run broadsheet the Daily News said.

Ahmadinejad, who is also visiting Pakistan and India this week, was to sign "several agreements" for future financial assistance to Sri Lanka, Rajapakse's office said in a statement.

Last Mod: 28 Nisan 2008, 15:40
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