Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Sri Lanka's Marxist party supports PM for next president

AP , COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka's powerful Marxist party announced yesterday it would support Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse in presidential elections later this year after his government agreed to renegotiate a ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels and rescind a tsunami aid sharing pact with the guerrillas.

"Having considered all circumstances, the situation our country is at the moment, we have decided we should support Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse on certain conditions," Somawansa Amerasinghe, the top Marxist leader, told reporters.

The Marxists quit the government in June after disagreeing over the joint tsunami aid plan with the guerrillas, claiming it would legitimize the rebels in the eyes of the international community and strengthen their campaign for an independent Tamil state. The move left the governing party with a minority in parliament.

However, following a Supreme Court ruling last month that presidential elections must be held before Nov. 22, Rajapakse invited the Marxists for talks. The Marxists wield considerable influence and their support is crucial in the tightly contested race.

The Marxists said their support depended on 12 conditions, including that the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire agreement signed on Feb. 22, 2002 would be "reviewed and revised fully ... completely redone."

They also said the deal to share tsunami aid with the rebels should not be implemented. It said a "new program" should be formulated to accelerate tsunami aid delivery.

Amerasinghe said his party had agreed on all points with Rajapakse and the pact would be signed in the next five or six days.

The guerrillas began fighting to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in 1983, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination.

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