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US Officials Visit Sri Lanka Amid Woes 06/26 08:32

   

   COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Senior U.S. officials arrived in Sri Lanka on 
Sunday to find ways to help the island nation in the throes of an unprecedented 
economic crisis and severe shortages of essential supplies, as the energy 
minister warned that new fuel shipments would be delayed.

   The U.S. over the past two weeks has announced millions of dollars in 
assistance to Sri Lanka, which has been surviving on $4 billion in credit lines 
from neighboring India. It also has received pledges of $300 million to $600 
million from the World Bank to buy medicine and other items.

   Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week announced the economy had 
"collapsed" due to dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a mounting debt, 
worsened by the pandemic and other longer term troubles.

   The U.S. delegation was led by Robert Kaproth, deputy assistant secretary of 
Treasury for Asia, and Kelly Keiderling, deputy assistant secretary of state 
for South and Central Asia.

   During their four-day stay, they will meet a wide range of political 
representatives, economists, and international organizations to "explore the 
most effective ways for the U.S. to support Sri Lankans in need, Sri Lankans 
working to resolve the current economic crisis, and Sri Lankans planning for a 
sustainable and inclusive economy for the future," the U.S. Embassy said in a 
statement.

   "This visit underscores our ongoing commitment to the security and 
prosperity of the Sri Lankan people," said Julie Chung, U.S. ambassador to Sri 
Lanka.

   She said that as Sri Lankans endure some of the "greatest economic 
challenges in their history, our efforts to support economic growth and 
strengthen democratic institutions have never been more critical."

   The U.S. has announced $120 million in new financing for small and 
medium-sized businesses, a $27 million contribution to Sri Lanka's dairy 
industry and $5.75 million in humanitarian assistance to help those hit hardest 
by the economic crisis. Another $6 million was committed in new grants for 
livelihoods and technical assistance on financial reform.

   Sri Lanka says it's unable to repay $7 billion in foreign debt due this 
year, pending the outcome of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund 
on a rescue package. It must pay $5 billion on average annually until 2026. 
Authorities have asked the IMF to lead a conference to unite Sri Lanka's 
lenders.

   Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera in a tweet on Saturday evening 
urged people not to line up for fuel, saying new shipments would be delayed due 
to "banking and logistics reasons."

   He said limited stocks of fuel will be distributed to limited stations 
throughout next week. He said until the next shipments arrive, "public 
transport, power generations and industries will be given a priority."

   Wickremesinghe said last week that the state-run Ceylon Petroleum 
Corporation was $700 million in debt and as a result, no country or 
organization was willing to provide fuel.

   Protesters have occupied the entrance to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's 
office for more than two months demanding his resignation, saying the primary 
responsibility for the crisis rests with him and his family, whom they accuse 
of corruption and mismanagement.

 
 
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