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Sri Lanka studying Prabakaran's statement

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO, DEC.1. The Sri Lankan Government today said it was carefully studying the recent statement by the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and "is in communication" with the facilitators, Norway, "on future steps to be taken in the peace process."

Indicating its unwillingness to meet Mr. Prabakaran's main demand — `unconditional' peace talks, failing which it would "advance its freedom struggle" — the Government said: "A call, couched in threatening language, from the LTTE now for a resumption of negotiations without conditions, while setting conditions itself by insisting unilaterally on a single agenda item is scarcely conducive to good faith negotiations."

Unsustainable

In an official statement on the November 27 Heroes' Day speech by Mr. Prabakaran, the Government said the absence of "direct negotiations" was "of no benefit to anyone" and was `unsustainable.'

The ruling United People's Freedom Alliance Government also made it a point to mention that it "has made serious, sincere and consistent efforts to re-open talks with the LTTE."

Observers saw the Government's view that absence of "direct negotiations" was `unsustainable' as reflecting its concern over the continued stalemate — particularly against the backdrop of a "creeping Eelamisation" in rebel-held northern and eastern Sri Lanka — where the Tigers have put in place their administrative appurtenances.

A political analyst felt the Government's statement was a `rejection'of Mr. Prabakaran's "main demand for unconditional resumption of talks," based on its proposals for an interim self-governing authority. It was also viewed as `conciliatory' and "favouring negotiations," while "both sides are trying to lay down their terms." The Government, a political observer felt, "cannot go on a propaganda offensive."

Interim authority

The Government's statement today also stuck to its position linking an interim authority to the final outcome, within a united Sri Lanka.

It had "conveyed publicly," and "through the kind facilitation" of Norway, "its readiness to discuss the establishment of an interim authority" while "exploring a permanent settlement along the lines of the document signed and accepted by the Government and the LTTE in Oslo on December 5, 2002."

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