Lanka formally invites PM,EAM to attend SAARC Summit in Colombo

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New Delhi, Jun 16 (UNI) With 41 days left for the 15th SAARC Summit to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka today claimed that six of the eight districts had been freed from terrorism and the country was now on a path of democracy with options shrinking for LTTE supremo Prabhakaran.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee here today and discussed the situation in the island nation following the Provincial Council elections in his country, told reporters that people had moved away from the LTTE and were increasingly participating in the democratic process.

The Lankan Minister who arrived here yesterday evening on a whirlwind day-long tour, held discussions with top Indian leadership on the situation in the island nation and formally invited the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister to attend the 15th SAARC Summit to be held in Colombo from July 27-August 3.

The External Affairs Ministry said, ''Mr Bogollagama met Mr Mukherjee and personally conveyed the invitation. He also briefed the EAM on the preparations for the forthcoming Summit particularly the need to continue the theme of connectivity which was the focus of the 14th SAARC Summit held in Delhi last year.'' The two Ministers also discussed other SAARC related issues, such as the SAARC Development Fund, SAARC Standards Organisation, South-Asia University and the SAARC Food Bank.

The Summit will be presided over by Dr Singh before handing over the chair to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The External Affairs Minister hosted a working lunch for the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister. Discussions over lunch covered developments in Sri Lanka, India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations and regional issues, a spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry said.

Mr BogollagaMA said in 2007, eight districts were hit by terrorism. Now, one year and four months later, only two and a half districts were affected, he said.

Asked about the claims that government troops were closing in on LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran, the Sri Lankan Minister said when terrorism had reduced from eight to two and a half districts, in terms of the geographical area, the LTTE Chief had limited options.

He said he had also discussed with Indian leaders areas of cooperation in terms of SAARC Development Agenda, the future of SAARC process and the initiatives to be taken.

The thrust would be on making things implementable from a rhetoric stage and were looking at the security element in terms of legal process against terrorism.

''The core issue is terrorism. We have to address these issues and have safe passage for democracy. That is what we are looking at...,'' he said, adding the Summit would take up matters related to energy and SAARC food bank.

Exprerssing satisfaction at the democratic agenda of his country, the Lankan Minister said, ''the country had entered the mode of elections'' with the Provincial Council elections.

He said his government was looking at political solutions to all political issues and called upon people to ''learn lessons and embrace democracy.'' UNI RB LPB KN2036

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