The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Iran to invest in expansion project of Sri Lankan oil refinery

Sri Lankan Oil Minister said Wednesday in an interview with Japan's Kyodo news agency Iran has decided to increase its investment in expansion project of an oil refinery there up to one billion US dollars.

According to IRNA office in Tokyo, A. H. M. Fowzi added in his interview with Kyodo, "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has allocated this amount to the purpose, which would cover 70% of the require investment for the refinery's expansion, in form of a ten year loan, with a five year exemption period from payment of the loan's installments."
Fowzi added, "Iran had earlier, too, provided the oil we need in Sri Lanka free from interest for four months."
According to this report, Iran is the largest provider of crude oil for Sri Lanka.

According to Kyodo's report, the Managing Director of Sri Lanka's state run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Ashanta Domel, too, has said that the pilot study for increasing the production of Sri Lanka's only refinery from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels per day has been completed by Iranian oil engineers.

Domel added, "Iran would make the major part of the required investment for expansion of this oil refinery (70%) and the CPC would cover the rest (30%)."
The Sri Lankan Oil Minister added in his interview with Kyodo that the project would yield noticeable benefit for its investors, adding, from the economic point of view, my affiliated ministry, too, is interested in making investments there."
According to Kyodo, Domel who visited Iran in early April, 2008, expects the project's executive phase to begin within the next three to four months.

Oil experts predict that Sri Lanka's oil refinery would increase its production after the Iranian oil engineers would end their work here within the next two to three years.

Islamic Republic of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to have a two day state visit to Sri Lanka on April 28th and 29th.

Ahmadinejad would during the state visit meet his Sri Lankan counterpart, that country's prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.


Tamil Nadu back as LTTE's safe haven ?

Battered in the north-eastern war theatre in Sri Lanka, hounded at sea by a resurgent Navy, and having lost several logistic vessels in sea battles, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) seems to be falling back for supplies on its oldest haven - the porous coastline of Tamil Nadu and its vast hinterland.

Dozens of incidents of smuggling and over 100 arrests in the last couple of years stand testimony to the Tigers' network in the state, even though there is insufficient evidence to indicate collusion by the state machinery.

The LTTE maintains a wide network of committed sympathisers and mercenary supporters to ensure regular supplies of fuel, medicines and war-related materials to carry on their armed campaign in the island nation.

As many as 108 people have been arrested for suspected smuggling activities since May 2006. Of these, 31 were Sri Lankan Tamils and the rest Indians.

Forty of these suspects were detained under the National Security Act (NSA), but some of them have been released on technical grounds. There are 49 Sri Lankan Tamils in a special camp for suspected militants and their sympathisers in Chengalpattu. Of these, nine are hard-core LTTE men.

The Sri Lankan navy feels its recent successes against the LTTE's fleet of arms-running vessels — it has sunk seven in the last two years — has forced the rebel group to source much of its supplies from India.

Col (retd) R Hariharan, who headed military intelligence in the Indian Peace Keeping Force, notes that the LTTE seems to have received some fresh ammunition in recent days.

"It is not clear which clandestine route is being used by the LTTE to import munitions. But the Indian coastal zone continues to be the weakest link in the naval defence of Sri Lanka. We may expect the Sri Lankan navy to intensify operations in the seas around Kachchativu in the coming weeks."

A major haul in the first half of 2006 was the police seizure of a consignment of gelex boosters from a vehicle near Madurai. It was apparently meant to be shipped to northern Sri Lanka via Rameswaram. Once again, the temple town seemed to become a vital hub for smuggling for the Tamil Tigers.

In one instance, the 'Q' branch police arrested eight LTTE operatives while trying to smuggle out a truck-load of ball-bearings. Investigation revealed that the consignment had been bought from an automobile spare parts company in Mumbai. Ball-bearings are used as shrapnel in improvised explosive devices.

In February 2007, the Coast Guard caught two boats carrying a cache of ammunition and explosives and metallic bars packed in gunny bags. Later that month, the Coast Guard intercepted a 'Sea Tiger' boat with five members of the LTTE’s sea wing. Their interrogation revealed that the boat had been lined with explosives.

The boat was taken away to mid-sea and blasted as a security measure. There were several other seizures of aluminium ingots, ball bearings, scrap metal, rocket shells, boosters, explosives, detonators and chemicals in the southern districts.

The war in Sri Lanka is now closer to India's coast than ever before. The main theatre is now Mannar, the north-western district in which a small enclave is in LTTE control. Talaimannar, Sri Lanka’s westernmost point is just an hour’s speedboat journey away from Rameswaram.

As long as the unending conflict in the neighbouring country rages on, Tamil Nadu, especially its fishermen, will continue to see disquieting days.

Source: timesofindia