Sri Lanka no where close to resume peace talks as government, Tamil rebels remain poles apart
Fri May 28, 2004 10:15 EDT .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A Norwegian peace broker left Sri Lanka - empty-handed Friday, after failing to get the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to agree to a new round of talks aimed at ending the nation's two-decade civil war. The rebels began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination in education and jobs.
About 65,000 people were killed before Norway brokered a truce that halted the conflict in 2002. However, subsequent peace talks broke down a year later when the rebels withdrew over demands for more autonomy in the regions they control.
The cease-fire has held firm.
But lingering distrust between the two sides has held up efforts to resume the talks, said Jehan Perera, a top political analyst of the National Peace Council an independent think-tank.
The government has given conflicting signals about its willingness to accept the rebels' conditions, including accepting the group as the sole representative of the island's 3.2 million minority Tamils.
Sri Lanka - 's army and the Tamil Tigers have accused each other of violence in the east that has left more than a dozen people dead, including intelligence officers and rebel fighters.
The failure of the government and the rebels to resolve their differences during Solheim's visit comes days before aid donors meet in Brussels to discuss reconstruction assistance to the war-ravaged country.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is set to attend the June 1 meeting with Japan, Norway and the European Union.
About 70 countries and financial institutions have said that pledges to Sri Lanka - totaling US$4.5 billion are linked to progress toward a peace agreement.
Published: Fri May 28 11:31:14 EDT 2004