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Rajapaksa renews call to LTTE

Budget envisages a 45 per cent hike in defence outlay



Mahinda Rajapaksa

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday reiterated his call to the LTTE to lay down arms, join the democratic mainstream and hold talks with the Government.

Unveiling the budget for 2007, which envisages a 45 per cent hike in defence outlay, Mr. Rajapaksa told Parliament he was grateful to the international community for the efforts to help revive the peace process and end a new wave of violence since he took charge in November last.

``A few days after I became President, they resumed hostile activities. We are deeply committed to peace... We are ready to consider all reasonable solutions to the minority issues. Only the LTTE has not accepted this so far. I invite them to lay down arms, join the democratic system and hold talks," he said.

Peace talks collapsed last month amid fears of eruption of full-scale hostilities.

The budget estimates project that defence spending would jump to 139.55 billion rupees ($1.29 billion) to December 2007 from an estimated 96.21 billion rupees in 2006.

The 2006 deficit was projected at 9.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, up from 8.7 percent the previous year. The deficit for 2007 is estimated at 7.5 per cent of the GDP.

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