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COLOMBO: Cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced Tuesday it was opening its oil market to foreign competition, a day after chronic fuel shortages forced a nationwide halt to petrol and diesel sales.

The South Asian island country is suffering an unprecedented economic crisis because it cannot afford to import essentials, including enough oil and gas to meet energy needs.

Lengthy blackouts are now a feature of daily life, while motorists have been forced to wait in daylong queues for scarce supplies of petrol.

A rationing system has been in effect but on Monday night the government banned fuel sales for two weeks to conserve Sri Lanka’s limited stockpiles for emergencies.

Ministers said the crisis had made it an appropriate time to allow market entry from firms in oil-producing nations “to enable them to import and sell fuel using their funds”, a cabinet statement said Tuesday.

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