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Rumors on ties with Sri Lanka dismissed
By Zhang Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-04 10:14

Rumors that China and Sri Lanka engaged in an arms deal during the southeast Asian country's recent civil war was rejected by visiting Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Friday.

"Sri Lanka and China enjoy a traditional bilateral relationship and have enjoyed a smooth development of cooperation since the diplomatic ties were established in 1957," Bogollagama told China Daily.

He dismissed speculations that China was providing military equipment to Sri Lanka to fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and said the rumors of arms sales are based on "no facts and figures".

The Tamil Tigers were recently crushed after a 25-year civil war with the Sri Lankan military.

Bogollagama, however, lauded China's significant efforts in responding to humanitarian aid calls to Sri Lanka.

China gave $1 million in humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka to help displaced civilians. The Chinese government also provided 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) worth of tents to help the Internally Displaced Persons out of the discomfort after the conflict.

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Bogollagama said the post-war Sri Lanka has focused on development and reconstruction, in which China has played an important role.

One of the key aspects of Bogollagama's visit to China is to further their relationship and seek help with future construction projects in Sri Lanka, he said.

There have been speculations in the West on China's funding of the construction of Hambantota port in the southern part of Sri Lanka. Rumors have noted that it is strategically set to be China's overseas naval base and fuel oil bunkering terminals.

"Hambantota port is being constructed for commercial purposes to facilitate the important trade sea route in the Indian Ocean and will be a major source to Sri Lanka's economic development," Bogollagama said. He declined to say that there is any or will be any naval bases of other countries in Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama said Sri Lanka and India boast a unique "productive and healthy" relationship and China and Sri Lanka's engagement is "not a matter of any concern".

Bogollagama said he also looks to see more cooperation with China in economic activities and an exclusive economic zone for China dedicated to attract China's direct investment has been initiated.

In another development, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang also met with Bogollagama on Friday.

"We attach great importance to the traditional friendship with Sri Lanka," Li told the guest, adding that China would work with Sri Lanka to promote the comprehensive and cooperative partnership to a new height.

Bogollagama was visiting China from July 1 to 5 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.