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Norway for joint assessment of Colombo situation

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO OCT. 29. Norway, facilitators for the Sri Lankan peace process, today announced a joint assessment of the situation in the island nation and the implications for the presence of the international monitors belonging to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

Replying to a request by the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to replace the head of the SLMM, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, said he would "consult closely with the Governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, which participate in the SLMM, in order to jointly assess the situation and the implications for the presence of the international monitors in Sri Lanka".

Mr. Petersen was replying to the request made by Ms. Kumaratunga on October 23, to the Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, asking that the head of the SLMM, Trygve Tellefsen, be replaced as "it is considered that Maj. Gen. Tellefsen's conduct has been unsatisfactory insofar as the security interests of Sri Lanka are concerned".

Ms. Kumaratunga had sought the removal of Maj. Gen. (retd.) Tellefsen's, based on a communication to her by the Navy Commander, that the Navy could not apprehend a suspected LTTE boat as the SLMM had asked the Tigers about the presence of one of their vessels.

In her letter to Mr. Bondevik, she had said: "the impartiality and objectivity of Maj. Gen. Tellefsen in discharging his duties under the ceasefire agreement have caused serious doubts".

Mr. Petersen, in his reply, said he "will study carefully the report of the Government of Sri Lanka also undertake a separate examination of the issues regarding the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission". The SLMM head had also been asked to "be available for these discussions, including meetings with the Nordic Governments".

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