Iran ‘willing’ to share nuclear technology with Sri Lanka, ups aid
[TamilNet, Thursday, 07 August 2008, 18:45 GMT]
Iran is willing to share nuclear technology for peaceful purposes with Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told The Island newspaper. Mottaki, who was in Colombo to attend the 15th SAARC Summit told The Island, that Iran and Sri Lanka are long standing friends and Tehran was willing to assist Colombo in all fields, including uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. He also called for the establishment of an Asia parliament on the lines of the European Parliament as a first step towards regional integration. Iran has outpaced Japan as Sri Lanka’s biggest donor this year.
Asked about allegations that Iran, was helping Sri Lanka because it has no friends in the world, Mottaki dismissed them as ridiculous. "Ours is a friendship based on mutual trust and understanding. To impute ulterior motives is mischievous to say the least" he said
"Iran is sincerely committed to the development of Sri Lanka, whom we consider to be a true friend," he said.
"Our commitment has already been proved by a pledge of over US$ 450 million in assistance for several Sri Lankan projects, including the Sapugaskanda oil refinery and Uma Oya irrigation scheme," Mottaki said.
The reciprocal visits of Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mahinda Rajapaksa to each others' countries, bear ample testimony to the solid friendship that has stood the test of time, he observed.
"Iran, wants to expand economic and commercial ties with all SAARC members including Sri Lanka. We can help the region develop its energy resources and food production among other things."
Calling for the establishment of an Asian Parliament on the lines of the European Parliament, he said that it could be the first step towards greater integration, which is so vital for development.
Meanwhile, Iran has emerged as Sri Lanka's biggest donor this year, knocking Japan from the position of being the war-torn island's main benefactor, The Economic Times quoted the finance ministry in Colombo as saying this week.
In the five months to May this year, Sri Lanka has received USD 1.05 billion in foreign aid, of which project loans accounted for 959 million and grants for 90 million, the treasury said in its mid-year fiscal report.
Western donors have been threatening to cut aid to Sri Lanka because of worsening human rights abuses and the escalating civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The treasury said foreign aid would have almost halved if Iran had not chipped in with USD 450 million to build a hydro power project and upgrade the island's sole oil refinery.
Other key donors included Denmark (USD 155.2 million), India (USD 109.2 million), the Asian Development Bank (USD 90 million), World Bank (USD 43.1 million) and Japan (USD 42.2 million).
Japan and the Asian Development Bank have in the past been the biggest lenders to the island.