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LTTE rejects agenda for talks

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO, DEC. 24 . The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) today formally rejected the Sri Lankan Government's latest agenda to resume talks and said it was "displeased" with its "structure and contents." The agenda was conveyed to the rebels last week by the Norwegian Special Adviser to the peace process, Erik Solheim.

The LTTE has demanded a specific mention that its proposals for an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) would be the basis for the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

In an official response, conveyed by the LTTE's chief negotiator, Anton S. Balasingham, to Mr. Solheim in London today, the rebels blamed the left-nationalist ruling ally, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), for the continued deadlock.

Coherent version sought

"As the JVP continues to declare its vehement opposition to peace talks with the LTTE based on the Interim Self-Governing Authority as proposed by our organisation," the rebel leadership insisted on "a clear, coherent, well-defined version of the agenda, without ambiguity and abstruseness," Mr. Balasingham said.

A report in the TamilNet website quoted Mr. Balasingham as saying that the Tigers had "carefully scrutinised the current version of the agenda" and unhappy with it.

The details of the agenda have not been made public, but according to reports, the revised plan for talks mentions the need to discuss an "interim arrangement" in contrast to the LTTE's demand for discussions to be based on its proposals for an ISGA submitted by the Tigers last October.

`Vague position'

Terming the Sri Lankan President, Chandrika Kumaratunga's position as "vague and inconsistent" and describing the JVP's stance as "violent opposition expressed by her major ally," Mr. Balasingham said: "The Tamil Tiger leaders insist on a clear, comprehensive agenda, instead of revising earlier formulations, definitely specifying that the Interim Self-Governing Authority, as proposed by the LTTE, shall be the basis for peace negotiations."

Third anniversary

The LTTE's formal rejection coincided with the third anniversary today of the LTTE's unilateral ceasefire declaration in 2001, more than a year after they overran a strategic military complex, Elephant Pass, in April 2000. Subsequently, a formal ceasefire agreement was signed separately by the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the LTTE leader, V. Prabakaran, on February 22, 2002. The prevailing ceasefire is the longest one.

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