Sri Lankan president says no decision taken on resumption of peace talks with Tamil rebels
Sat June 12, 2004 11:13 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's president on Saturday denied that she had agreed to resume peace talks with Tamil rebels to grant them interim self-rule without getting a commitment from the guerrillas to discuss a final settlement of the 20-year conflict.
The rebels ``would like the talks to focus only on proposals to set up an Interim Authority while the government has indicated the need to engage in discussions on a permanent solution to the conflict,'' President Chandrika Kumaratunga said during a televised address to the nation.
Her stand contradicted what a major Tamil political alliance said Friday after talks with the president, the first since her United Peoples' Freedom Alliance was voted to power in April.
``The two parties are still working out what the next round of peace negotiations should be about,'' she said.
The Tamil National Alliance said Kumaratunga had agreed to drop the demand of linking interim self-rule to a comprehensive settlement on lands in the north and east of the island nation that rebels have fought to make an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils.
The rebel proposal for self-rule has been a major stumbling block in restarting talks on ending the civil war that has killed about 65,000 people since 1983. Negotiations have been stalled since April last year.
Kumaratunga's government has insisted that any talks about Tamil autonomy take place simultaneously with discussions about a permanent end to the conflict.
``Over the past several weeks we have been in the process of resolving issues about the substance of the agenda for peace negotiations,'' Kumaratunga said.
In 2002, Norway brokered a truce. However, subsequent peace talks broke down a year later when the rebels withdrew over demands for more autonomy in the regions they control, but the cease-fire has held firm.
Published: Sat Jun 12 15:14:24 EDT 2004