Vajpayee helped SL in war against LTTE: Ranil

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a "true friend" of Sri Lanka and had assisted the country in the civil war against the LTTE, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday.

Mr Wickremesinghe made these comments after visiting the Indian
High Commission in Colombo to sign a condolence book for Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 93.

"He was one of the great prime ministers. He was a true friend of Sri Lanka, he stood for Sri Lanka at all times," Wickremesinghe said.

"When I was the prime minister of Sri Lanka previously, the LTTE was in a very strong position. Our economy was weak. Mr Vajpayee helped us develop the economy and extended military training. We were able to stop the sea Tigers (LTTE's sea wing) because of him," he said.

Wickremesinghe said he met Vajpayee for the first time in 1975. When Vajpayee later became India's foreign minister in 1977, Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka's deputy foreign minister carried on the friendship, he said.

"He gave me his personal telephone number when he returned as the prime minister, and we continued the friendship," Mr Wickremesinghe said.(PTI)