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Sri Lanka crisis

Sri Lanka's ex-President Rajapaksa to return next week: local report

Former ambassador says ousted leader expected back on Tuesday

Sri Lanka's former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last November: His successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, only recently said that he does not "believe it's the time for him to return."   © Reuters

(Reuters) -- Sri Lanka's former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the island nation next week after fleeing in July amid mass protests, local broadcaster Newsfirst reported on Wednesday, citing a former ambassador.

Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia who is related to Rajapaksa, said he will arrive in Sri Lanka on Aug. 24, Newsfirst reported.

Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand, after fleeing Sri Lanka on a military plane to the Maldives and then spending weeks in Singapore.

He resigned from office soon after arriving in Singapore, facing public anger over his government's handling of Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka. Reuters was not able to immediately contact him or Weeratunga.

The office of Rajapaksa's successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who suggested last month that the former president refrain from returning to Sri Lanka in the near future, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

"I don't believe it's the time for him to return," Wickremesinghe told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on July 31. "I have no indication of him returning soon."

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