Norway to aid Sri Lanka peace bid

Sri Lanka's peace broker Norway is set to escalate diplomatic moves this week to jumpstart stalled peace talks amid fresh fears that political instability could wreck the process.

    Norwegian officials to meet rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran

    Foreign Minister Jan Petersen is due in Colombo on Monday to revive negotiations on hold since April last year, Norwegian diplomats said on Sunday.

    They added that a highlight will be a meeting with the elusive Tiger Tamil chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
    The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) brought their London-based chief negotiator Anton Balasingham, 65, to the rebel-held Wanni region on Friday ahead of hectic shuttle diplomacy expected in coming weeks.
    Diplomats said Petersen's visit will be followed by one from Japan's special peace envoy to Sri Lanka Yasushi Akashi, who last June helped boost peace prospects by raising $4.5 billion in aid pledges to rebuild Sri Lanka.
    Norway's special peace envoy, Erik Solheim, who was here last week, is expected back at the end of May in another bid to end the three decades of ethnic strife that have claimed 60,000 lives, officials said.

    Controversial role

    The LTTE told Solheim last week they were willing to resume talks based on their plan for self-rule in the island's war-torn northern and eastern regions.

    But President Chandrika Kumaratunga has already rejected the proposal that would grant the rebels greater political and financial powers.
    Kumaratunga's new leftist government also faces opposition inside its ranks to opening talks with the Tamil Tigers and getting the Norwegians involved.

    Kumaratunga's junior coalition partner, the Marxist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, had wanted Norway kicked out during the election campaign.

    Officials in Kumaratunga's office said that during talks with the JVP on Norway's role, the Marxists agreed to Oslo's "facilitation" but wanted a role for neighbouring India in the peace process.



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