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President concludes successful visit to India

November 29, 2006- 11.15 GMT

President Mahinda Rajapaksa concluded a successful visit to India today (Nov. 29) with an hour-long meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The meeting with the Indian Prime Minister at Hyderabad House was followed by a lunch hosted by the Dr. Singh. Speaking to the media after the meeting with the Indian Premier, President Rajapaksa said there was a cordial and frank exchange of views between Dr. Singh and himself on a wide range of matters of mutual interest.

Earlier today, President Rajapaksa met the Mr. L. K. Advani, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, who is also the leader of the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) the largest party in opposition. The President told Mr. Advani that his government was fully committed to a negotiated solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. He also explained extent of violence being carried out by the LTTE, and that the Government had not retaliated until an LTTE suicide killer had tried to assassinate the Army Commander in April this year.

Mr. Advani reiterated support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and said there would be no support for the LTTE. He said his party was also supportive of a political solution to the situation in Sri Lanka.

The Indian Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Shrimathi Ambiga Soni who called on President Rajapaksa this morning explained the steps being taken to bring the sacred relics of the Buddha from Kapilavastu to Sri Lanka. She said that all steps were being taken to bring the relics to Sri Lanka hopefully in February next year.

The President and Minster Soni also discussed the possibilities of mutual cooperation for the development of tourism between the two countries.

The meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today brought to an end the President's visit to India from November 25.

President Rajapaksa came to India to be the Chief Guest at the First Asian Mayors' Conference held at Dehradun. While at Dehradun he also laid the foundation stone for the Indo-Sri Lanka Human Rights Centre for South Asia at the premises of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK).

Arriving in New Delhi on November 26, President had a busy schedule meeting the political leaders including the External Affairs Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, the leader of the ruling UPA Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the Indian Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Smt. Ambiga Soni, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. L. K. Advani.

Many aspects of cooperation between India and Sri Lanka were discussed at these meetings with Indian Ministers, including the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries that is in the final stages of negotiation.




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