The tussle between Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has thrown the government into paralysis and threatens a fragile peace process with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

   

Buoyed by his meeting with President George Bush on Wednesday, Wickremesinghe said he was confident he would resolve the crisis sparked by Sri Lanka's president’s action, firing three government ministers and suspending the parliament.

 

Turmoil

   

Wickremesinghe had been in Washington on an official visit since the beginning of the turmoil. His arch-rival Kumaratunga had declared a state of emergency, giving herself more powers.

   

"This is not the first crisis I have had. When I go back, I'll sort it out," Wickremesinghe told reporters after his meeting with Bush.

   

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush praised Wickremesinghe's efforts to end the 20-year war with the separatist LTTE.

   

"The president expressed his strong support for the prime minister's leadership and his commitment to peace," McClellan told a news briefing. "The president reaffirmed our strong support for the peace process and democratic institutions that are in place in Sri Lanka."

 

"This is not the first crisis I have had. When I go back, I'll sort it out"

Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

McClellan said Bush had not been in touch with the Sri Lankan president.

   

"This is an internal matter for Sri Lanka," McClellan said. "There are democratic institutions in place, and we have confidence in those democratic institutions to resolve these internal matters."

 

Accusation

   

The split between Sri Lanka's president and prime minister, who are elected separately, has been building since Wickremesinghe's party won parliamentary elections in late 2001.

   

Kumaratunga has accused the prime minister of being too soft on the Tamil rebels. The separatist war in Sri Lanka has killed 64,000 people and is one of Asia's longest-running and bloodiest conflicts.

   

Wickremesinghe described the moves by Kumaratunga, who has vast powers under the constitution, as desperate and irresponsible and said they could plunge the country into chaos and anarchy.

   

"We have the majority in parliament and we're going to get the peace process on track... I have a mandate to bring peace to the country," he said.