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* SAARC cannot progress in isolation, Sri Lanka President says
Wed, Apr 28, 2010, 07:43 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Apr 28, Thimpu: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa today told the leaders of the South Asian nations that the SAARC, regional organization cannot progress in isolation and called to strengthen the means for practical engagement with the SAARC Observer States and with selected International Organisations in particular, for the development efforts in the region.

Addressing the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu today as the Chairman of the organization, President Rajapaksa said the SAARC nations must not hesitate to build new structures and mechanisms, to enable SAARC to reach its full potential.

The President accompanied by First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation received a warm welcome from the Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmi Y.Thinley and First Lady of Bhutan at the majestic Conference Hall in the Bhutanese capital.

Speaking of the theme of the summit, climate change, the President said the impact of the climate is of acute and common concern for the countries in the South Asian region and called for international efforts to alleviate the problems arising from the climate changes.

"The South Asian voice on this issue guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be strongly heard in all international fora. Those in the developed world who have historically contributed to the climate change must now bear the lion share of the burden to mitigate this phenomenon," President Rajapaksa stressed.

The President emphasizing the importance of empowering the economy in the rural areas of the countries said that the economic progress should filter down to the village level and touch the community at all levels.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka despite an adverse economic global environment achieved economic growth at about 6% per annum and the per capita income has increased from 1,060 dollars in 2005 to 2,050 dollars at present.

The economic progress does not require the mass movement of populations from the rural hinterland to urban areas, he said. Rather than moving people to urban areas the Sri Lankan government has focused on developing the rural areas to achieve the economic growth, President Rajapaksa added.

The President in conclusion said SAARC can reach its full potential if there is commitment and dedication

At the 16th Summit the current chairman, President Rajapaksa handed over the chairmanship of the SAARC organization to Bhutan Prime Minister.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L.Peris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Namal Rajapaksa, Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, and members of the President's Delegation were also present at the inaugural Summit.

(Pictures by Sudath Silva)


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