Sri Lankan president welcomes Norway's willingness to resume brokering peace talks
Fri April 23, 2004 10:35 EDT .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's president, a harsh critic of past peace talks, has welcomed Norway's willingness to resume brokering negotiations between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, her spokesman said Friday. The guerrillas, who launched an insurgency in 1983 for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's minority Tamils, accuse the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. Nearly 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict. A Norwegian-brokered cease-fire has remained in effect for two years, despite the suspension of peace talks.
During earlier negotiations, the rebels agreed to settle for extensive autonomy instead of a separate nation.
Kumaratunga, who was blinded in one eye by a rebel assassination attempt, has previously accused Norway of favoring the rebels and of overstepping its mandate as peace broker.
Norway, which has mediated in some of the world's worst conflicts, including those in the Middle East, always insists that both sides request its help.
``After we have received requests from both sides about continuing our efforts, we will enter a phase in which we consult with the parties on how to move the process further,'' Bondevik said Friday.
The political rivalry between Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe has dominated Sri Lankan politics for years and has complicated attempts to seek a resolution of the civil war.
Kumaratunga dissolved the previous parliament, led by Wickremesinghe, and ordered elections more than three years ahead of schedule.
Her alliance won the largest number of seats but did not receive the majority needed to take outright control of Parliament. Progress in peace talks may be difficult because her alliance partner, the Marxist People's Liberation Front, is opposed to giving the Tigers any suggestion of autonomy or self-rule.
Published: Fri Apr 23 11:42:02 EDT 2004