Chance for Sri Lankan peace may be slipping away, Armitage warns
Wed November 3, 2004 10:14 EST .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lanka - 's government must take immediate steps to resume peace talks or the country could return to civil war, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage warned. Hours later, a top rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham said donor countries were welcome to support the peace process in Sri Lanka - but that they ``should not stipulate parameters for a political solution.''
The rebels began fighting government forces in 1983 to create a separate state for minority Tamils, who claim discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese.
The fighting that killed nearly 65,000 people stopped after Norway brokered a cease-fire in February 2002. The rebels have since dropped their secession demand, asking instead for greater autonomy.
The international community, led by the United States and Japan, has since hosted donor conferences to secure aid to help rebuild the war-ravaged country.
The United States is one of a number of nations that have pledged a total US$4.5 billion (euro 3.5 billion) in aid. But that aid is conditional on progress toward peace.
Armitage is set to begin a visit to Sri Lanka - on Monday, when he is scheduled to discuss the faltering peace process with President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
His visit comes amid fresh initiatives to revive the peace talks, which collapsed in April 2003 over the rebels' demands for wider autonomy.
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Published: Wed Nov 3 15:44:03 EST 2004