Tamil Tigers to boycott Sri Lanka aid meeting
The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) told special peace envoy Yasushi Akashi of Japan, the main foreign aid donor, that they will stay away from Friday's conference.
"We declined to accept Mr. Akashi's invitation to participate in the donors' conference because there is no political stability and unified leadership of government in Colombo now," LTTE's political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan said.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website quoted Thamilselvan as saying that the Tigers' participation would "cause doubts in the minds of the (minority) Tamil people" at a time when the government was locked in an internal power struggle.
Sri Lanka's president and prime minister are from rival political parties and were elected separately. They are at loggerheads over how to conduct peace negotiations with the LTTE.
The crisis came to a head when President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked three ministers and took away from the control of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe the ministries of defence, interior and information in November.
Western diplomats said the power struggle has jeopardised the 4.5 billion dollars in foreign aid pledged at a conference Akashi helped arrange in Tokyo in June.
Akashi had made it clear that the release of foreign aid was closely linked to progress in the Norwegian-backed peace process aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed that has claimed over 60,000 lives.
Peace broker Norway suspended its role in November saying there was no clarity as to who was really in charge here after the president moved against the prime minister.
Kumaratunga went on to cut a deal with a radical leftist group Tuesday in a bid to topple the government of Wickremesinghe, who had been pursuing the peace process.
During a meeting with representatives of donor countries in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (206 miles) north of here, the LTTE warned that their ceasefire could collapse due to the power struggle.
Copyright (c) 2004 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/22/2004 06:57:15
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