President makes late night call to console Norway

By Our Diplomatic Editor

President Mahinda Rajapaksa telephoned Norway's Ambassador Hilda Haraldstad on Friday night (11.30 pm Sri Lanka time/8 p.m. Norway), who is on vacation to convey the Sri Lankan government's sympathies to the government and people of Norway following the bomb explosions in its capital, Oslo.
President Rajapaksa had conveyed the sympathies of the Sri Lankan government and its people and expressed "the solid support" of Sri Lanka to Norway to eradicate terrorism both bilaterally and internationally. He also referred to what Sri Lanka had undergone for three decades and said he wished Norway would be able to deal with acts of terror swiftly.

The death toll from Friday's bombing and shooting-spree has been put at 91 as initial investigations point to a Christian fundamentalist fanatic being responsible. Retaliation to Norway's recent active participation in NATO air strikes over Libya was initially believed to have been what attracted the bombings.

No sooner the news of the bombing was aired over television channels worldwide on Friday, President Rajapaksa had first telephoned Sri Lanka's envoy Rodney Perera in Oslo and kept abreast of the events unfolding in the Norwegian capital. Inquiries to enable President Rajapaksa to telephone Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was also hit by the bombing, did not materialise as the Norwegian was busy in the immediate aftermath of the incident. He had taken a call only from British Prime Minister David Cameron. President Rajapaksa had then asked that he be connected to Ms. Haraldstad who is currently vacationing at her family residence in Kristiansand, a beach area 350 km from Oslo in southern Norway.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry officials say that it is "very special" for an Ambassador to receive a call from a Head of State following the carnage in an around Oslo. Norway was unsuccessfully engaged as a facilitator in Sri Lanka's efforts to enter into a political solution with the LTTE for several years.

Ambassador Perera told the Sunday Times yesterday there were no known casualties from among the Sri Lankan community in the bombing or the shooting. Yesterday, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement issued in Colombo assured that Sri Lanka "stands with the people of Norway and offers its deepest sympathies".

Acting Minister Neomal Perera was quoted in the statement as saying, "it is sad to see the Norwegian people experiencing this kind of terrorism" and added that "there is no other country which would understand the pain and the suffering of the Norway (sic) people at this devastating time, than Sri Lanka".

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