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* Sri Lanka President to sign $300 million loan deal with Russia
Sat, Feb 6, 2010, 09:59 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 06, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa left Saturday for Russia on a three-day working visit, the first state visit after he was elected for a second six-year term last month.

During his visit, first such visit in the history of the bilateral relations between the two countries, the President is expected to sign a $300-million loan deal to buy military and dual-purpose equipment, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Dmitry Pankin, a deputy minister of the Russian Finance Ministry has confirmed to the RIA Novosti that such an agreement is being prepared for signing.

"Bilateral relations of Russia and Sri Lanka have reached a new level. Political dialog shows positive development, and now the sides are willing to fill bilateral relations with economic contents," a Russian official was quoted by the news agency. Russia's joint stance with Sri Lanka at the United Nations last year amid Western community's criticism over the military operations against the LTTE was a clear example of the cordial bilateral relations between the two countries.

During the height of the military operations in the North, Russia ruled out a move by Mexico to discuss the military conflict and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka in the UN Security Council.

Russia is also a leading importer of Sri Lanka's tea since 2002. Tea accounts for 90% of all Sri Lankan exports to Russia, with spices, clothes, and medicines accounting for the remaining 10%.

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