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Sri Lanka crisis

China's Xi offers Sri Lanka's new president support amid crisis

Chinese leader pledges to help deeply indebted nation to 'best of his ability'

Sri Lanka's then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, now the president, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2017.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping offered Sri Lanka's new president his support on Friday, state broadcaster CCTV reported, as the Indian Ocean island grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, a lawyer who served as Sri Lanka's prime minister a record six times, was sworn in on Thursday in the face of fierce public opposition.

Sri Lanka's crisis sparked months of mass protests and eventually forced then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.

In his message, Xi said he believes Sri Lanka will be able to move towards economic and social recovery and he is "ready to provide support and assistance to the best of my ability to President Wickremesinghe and the people of Sri Lanka in their efforts", CCTV reported.

Sri Lanka owes at least $5 billion to China although some estimates put it at almost twice that amount. India has also lent it $3.8 billion and Japan is owed at least $3.5 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund, with another $1 billion due to other rich countries.

Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency.

Security forces raided and partially cleared a protest camp occupying government grounds in Colombo on Friday, fuelling fears that Wickremesinghe had launched a crackdown a day after being sworn in.

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