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Close ally Gaddafi calls Rajapaksa

world Updated: Mar 06, 2011 00:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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The diplomatic community in Colombo is abuzz with speculation about the telephone call that beleaguered Libyan leader and Lanka’s ally Muammar Gaddafi made to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday.

Rajapaksa’s secretariat was only willing to share that he advised Gaddafi to look after his people’s interests and ensure peace in his country.

"Establish peace in Libya as soon as possible and safeguard the lives of Libyan people," Rajapaksa was quoted as telling Gaddafi by media advisor Bandula Jayasekara.

State-run Libyan TV confirmed the conversation between the two leaders. "The Sri Lankan president asked the brother leader to inform him about the current developments in Libya," a BBC report quoting state run Al-Jamahiriya TV said.

But there was no word about the reason behind the sudden phone call at a time when the Libyan dictator was facing a fast-spreading popular uprising at home.

Gaddafi and Rajapaksa have built a warm rapport in the last couple of years after decades of indifferent diplomatic relationship. Rajapaksa was the first Lankan head of state to visit Libya. He did so twice in 2009; once in April even as the civil war between government troops and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was reaching a climax. It was during Rajapaksa’s Presidency that the Lankan embassy was opened in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

IN January, Rajapaksa’s son and Lanka’s youngest Parliamentarian, Namal, led a delegation of Members of Parliament to Libya where he met Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, the government said it has chartered a flight to evacuate its nationals working in Libya. The charter flight carrying 400 workers will arrive in Sri Lanka this weekend. Already 160 workers have returned to the country.

There were about 1200 Sri Lankans working in Libya and many of them now want to be repatriated. The Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau is making the logistics with the External Affairs Ministry to bring back the Lankans trapped in Libya. Colombo had also requested New Delhi’s help in evacuating some of its citizens.