Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka president open to talks with rebels
Dec 31, 2006 - 10:52:08 PM

Colombo, Dec 31 - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said Sunday his government was committed to keep the process of negotiations with the Tamil Tiger rebels open in order to solve the ethnic separatist conflict.

'With all the development work the government has implemented the peace negotiation process and it also will be continued,' Rajapakse told a gathering of state employees here.

The process of direct negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -, started in 2002, is currently stalled with the escalation of violence undermining the Norwegian backed peace facilitation process.

Rajapakse, who was elected to office in November 2005, has held two rounds of face-to-face talks with the LTTE but both rounds ended with no achievement for further progress.

The clashes have taken precedence over the process of direct talks with both sides being blamed by the international community for violence that has claimed over 3,500 lives since December 2005.

Meanwhile, the head of an all political parties representatives panel appointed by Rajapakse to seek consensus for a final political package to the Tamil issue, Professor Tissa Vitharana, said his panel would strive to achieve common ground on a possible final package of devolution.

'I will be preparing a document with the agreement of everyone and it will form the basis of discussion at the next All Party Conference,' Vitharana, also Minister of Science and Technology, told reporters here Sunday.

The LTTE rebels have been fighting the government troops since the mid-1980s in their quest to set up a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east.

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