Sri Lanka

Deadlock on post-tsunami aid distribution in Sri Lanka

Colombo (dpa) - Talks between Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen and Tamil rebels on post-tsunami aid distribution in northern and eastern Sri Lanka ended in deadlock Wednesday, rebels said.

Helgesen met with the leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), S.P. Thamilselvan, in the rebel-held Kilinochchi area, 320 kilometres north of the capital, for talks mainly focused on a proposed post-tsunami aid distribution deal.

The aid mechanism has been proposed by the Norwegians to ensure smooth distribution of post-tsunami aid in the north and eastern parts of the country, including the rebel-held areas.

After nearly 90 minutes of talks, Thamilselvan told journalists that the Norwegian peace facilitators ''failed to carry any decisive message from the (Sri Lankan) government'' on the proposed Joint Mechanism.

The comments came amidst high expectations that the meeting between Helgesen and the LTTE political wing leader would result in the finalizing of the proposed agreement.

Plans to present the proposal to Parliament also were delayed Wednesday due to the meeting.

Thamilselvan said President Chandrika Kumaratunga's professed commitment to the signing of the Joint Mechanism was the only message that they got through Helgesen.

''We continue to get this message for quite some time now and proclamations alone are not sufficient to alleviate the hardships of a people who have already reached the fringe of frustration when tsunami struck them, waiting for three years to get back normalcy in their life after twenty years of war,'' Thamilselvan said.

The Norwegian deputy minister returned to Colombo to brief the government about the position of the guerrillas.

On Tuesday President Kumaratunga held discussions with Helgesen, at the President's House in Colombo.

The president expressed her strong commitment to proceed with the proposed joint mechanism, officially known as the Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure (P-TOMS), and briefed Helgesen on her consultations with political parties, religious leaders and civil society advocates on the issue, a statement from the president's office said.

The proposals have been met with strong opposition from political parties and some Buddhist monks. A coalition party with 39 members in the government has quit Kumaratunga's party, reducing the government to a minority in the 225-seat parliament.

Kumaratunga's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and other opposition members supporting the government now account for 81 members as against the minimum requirement of 113 members to maintain a stable government.

The main opposition United National Party has consented not to topple the ruling UPFA. dpa ad jh


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