China also promised assistance for the second phase of the Hambantota port project and cooperation to set up new industries. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqian at the Great Hall of the People's Republic China in Beijing yesterday.

Speaking on the occasion, Chinese Prime Minister Li expressed his desire to help Sri Lanka which is limping back to normalcy following a three decade war with one of the most dangerous terrorist outfits in the world. Prime Minister Li welcomed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe with utmost cordiality where they inked seven agreements on co-operation.

Responding to the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Li, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the meeting with his Chinese counterpart is rather important to take the relations between the two countries to another level.

The objective of the meeting is to finalise the future framework for relations between the two countries, he said.

Prior to the high level meeting between the two leaders, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was accorded a colourful welcome with a 19 gun salute guard of honour by the security forces of the People's Republic China.

As Wickremesinghe walked on to the special dais, strains of the Sri Lankan national anthem and that of the People's Republic of China filled the air adding a colourful touch to the welcome ceremony.

The Prime Minister and his delegation were hosted to a banquet by the Chinese Prime Minister in the evening.

The Prime Minister's delegation comprised Professor Maithri Wickremesinghe, Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Dr. Sarath Amunugama. Rauff Hakeem, Sajith Premadasa and Malik Samarawickrama, Secretary to the Prime Minister Saman Ekanayake, Ambassador Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku and Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendra.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also met with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China Zhang Dejiang.

The agreements signed between the two countries are as follows: An extradition treaty between the two countries, an MoU between the Chinese Commerce Ministry and Strategic Development and International Commerce Ministry of Sri Lanka, a technical cooperation agreement between the two countries, a kidney mobile screening project, an MoU between the Chinese Development Bank and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the second phase of the Southern highway, an MoU between the National Science Foundation of China and that of Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also met Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party Song Tao to bolster the ties between the United National Party and the Chinese Communist Party.