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Iran assures maximum support to Sri Lanka to achieve the country’s development targets
Published Date: 13/06/2012 (Wednesday)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President Mahinda Rajapaksa signed several MOUs to provide financial assistance to a number of development projects in Sri Lanka including the Uma Oya project and assistance to Sapugaskanda Oil refinery were put on hold after US embargo on Iran imposed in December 2011.

The MOUs were the outcome of  the meetings that Iran’s Minister of Economy and Finance Sayed Shamsedin Hosseini and Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, had on the sideline of  meetings of the International Monetary Fund and Work Bank in Washington on 20th April.

Iranian  Government announced that they have agreed to help Sri Lanka in rural electricity projects, rural water supply projects and road and railway development projects.

The two ministers also agreed to provide all facilities to improve tourism between the two countries. Iranian tourist arrival to Sri Lanka had increased remarkably after the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. Iranian Minister said that Iranian government will see all the possibilities of increasing air travel between two countries and providing other facilities to improve the tourism.

Iran and Sri Lanka have had official diplomatic relations since 1961.

Diplomatic relations between Iran and Sri Lanka began in 1961 via the Ceylonese embassy in Islamabad, which was the closest Ceylon had to a presence on Iranian soil until the opening of the Tehran embassy office in 1990. Tehran set up its Colombo office in 1975.

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became President of Iran, Sri Lanka was the first country he visited on his inaugural Asian tour. Mahinda Rajapaksa also made ties with Iran a priority after he ascended to office.

Iran has helped fund a number of development projects in Sri Lanka. In 2010 they agreed to post USD 450-500 million for the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project, a 90-100 megawatt hydroelectric power plant around the Central Province. Iran has also invested in Sri Lankan Oil refineries and its investments have helped to double Sri Lankan Oil production capacity. Iran has also invested in rural electrification. These projects have made Iran Sri Lanka's largest aid donor.

Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapkse publicly supported Iran’s right to use nuclear energy in a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Manoucher Mottaki in 2007. In April 2008, President Rajapkse and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged those world powers that possess nuclear weapons to disarm. In August 2008, Mottaki stated that Iran was willing to share uranium enrichment technology with Sri Lanka to help the country develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.

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