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Sri Lanka to partly repossess storage depot from IOC

Sri Lanka had given Lanka IOC the farm of 99 storage tanks in the north-eastern port of Trincomalee. The company had been using 15 of those and refurbishing two at the cost of $17 million

 
Within hours of India voting at the United Nations in support of a US-sponsored resolution blaming Sri Lanka for alleged human right violations against Tamils, the island nation on Thursday said it would take back part of the strategic oil storage depot given to Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) local arm.
 
According to reports, Sri Lanka’s information minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, said there was a provision to re-possess tanks not used by Lanka IOC, IOC’s local unit, which had bought a third of the government’s retail oil business in 2003.
 
An IOC spokesperson downplayed the move, saying: “We are not surprised, as it’s not a new demand. The local government had been asking for these tanks—from the period of the World War II, currently under maintenance—for almost a year.”
 
However, a late-evening media report quoted Syed Akbaruddin, the external affairs ministry spokesperson, as saying: “We have checked and been informed by senior officials from Colombo that no such decision has been taken.”
 
Subodh Dakwale, the Lanka IOC chief, said his firm was not aware about the government decision.
 
Under privatisation, Sri Lanka had given Lanka IOC the farm of 99 storage tanks in the north-eastern port of Trincomalee. The company had been using 15 of those and refurbishing two at the cost of $17 million.
 
Rambukwella said Anura Yapa, the new petroleum minister, was keen to expand the business of state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corp and wanted to increase its storage capacity. He added the move had nothing to do with India’s stand on the resolution.
 
However, the reports of Sri Lanka’s action have worried Indian firms with operations there. Cairn India, for example, has invested $200 million in discovering gas in Sri Lanka. An oil & gas analyst says: “For Cairn, its gas discovery in Sri Lanka was a big positive. Today’s developments may hit its future plan.”
 
Bharti Airtel, another Indian firm with significant presence in Sri Lanka, operates there as Airtel Lanka and has a user base of 1.7 million. Its spokesperson said there was no impact on Airtel Lanka’s operations and assets so far.
 

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Italy to send back marines to face trial to India

Italy’s previous decision not to send the marines to face trial triggered a diplomatic stand-off, with the Indian Supreme Court barring the Italian ambassador from leaving the country

 
The Italian government on Thursday evening said it will send back to India two marines to face trial for killing two fishermen after receiving an assurance from the Indian government about the protection of their fundamental rights.
 
“The two sailors will start tonight for India,” the Italian government said in a statement, reversing an earlier decision not to send them to India as agreed when they were granted permission to return home to vote in elections.
 
“The Italian government requested and received written assurances from the Indian authorities regarding the treatment of the marines and the protection of their fundamental rights,” the Indian government said in a statement.
 
Italy’s previous decision not to send marines—Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone—to face trial triggered a diplomatic stand-off, with the Indian Supreme Court barring the Italian ambassador from leaving the country.
 
Prime minister Manmohan Singh last week termed Italy’s refusal to send its two marines back to India as ‘unacceptable’ and said the issue will be taken up with that country.
 
Earlier yesterday Italian prime minister Mario Monti, along with defence minister Giampaolo Di Paola and minister of state for foreign affairs Steffan de Mistura jointly assessed the Italian position on the issue.
 
“In light of the assurances received, the government has considered the opportunity, in the interests of Fusiliers Marina, to maintain the commitment made at the permission to participate in the vote back in India by 22nd March,” the statement said.
 
“The marines agreed to this decision,” it added.
 
India had withhold posting of its ambassador-designate Basant Kumar Gupta to Rome and the Indian government had said further steps will be taken after completion of the review of bilateral ties with Italy.
 
The Italian government, which had given an undertaking before the court that the marines will be sent back, had on 11th March sent a note verbale to the Indian government informing it that the two will not be sent back.
 
On 18th January, the apex court had turned down the Italian government’s plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and had held that the two marines should be tried a special court constituted by the Centre.
 
It had directed that the two be shifted to Delhi and would remain under its ‘custody’ till the special court is set up.
 

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