Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Norway courts the Tamil Tiger rebels to negotiate peace


Norwegian diplomats tried to persuade with Tamil Tiger rebels to start fresh talks with Colombo yesterday after a Japanese envoy failed to end the deadlock in Sri Lanka's peace process, officials said.

Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim was to hold talks with the top negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Anton Balasingham in a bid to jump-start the Norwegian-backed peace bid, government officials said.

Solheim is a key figure who raised Sri Lanka's peace hopes in November 2000 by announcing that the guerrillas were serious about peace talks following a meeting with Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Solheim's mission comes a day after Japan's peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi, said he was unable to persuade the LTTE to immediately give up their boycott of talks despite a meeting with Prabhakaran.

"But, I think there is still room for discussions," Akashi told reporters here after returning to Colombo from the rebel-held Wanni region to brief Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Sri Lankan parliament debated a statement yesterday made by the prime minister Tuesday on efforts to revive taks.

The Tigers suspended participation in the Norwegian-brokered peace talks after accusing the government of failing to deliver on critical issues.

"The coming week is very crucial," Balasingham said after Prabhakaran's talks with Akashi.

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