Sri Lanka U-turn on Norway role
[BBC , 7 December 2005 ]
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has asked Norway to
continue mediating in peace efforts with Tamil rebels.
Mr Rajapakse made his request in talks with the Norwegian ambassador in Colombo,
a government statement said. The move came despite a recent election vow to
review Norway's role and follows calls from key coalition allies for Oslo to be
relieved of its duties.
Tensions have risen since Mr Rajapakse was elected last month, with the rebels
blamed for two mine attacks on troops. The army says 17 soldiers have died in
attacks in the north since last Friday, 14 of them in separate mine blasts near
On Wednesday, at least one civilian was killed and seven others hurt in a
grenade blast in the northern town of Vavuniya, police said. The attack came at
a crowded bus stop minutes after an army patrol had passed.
Mr Rajapakse also met representatives from the US, the EU and Japan - the three
other "co-chairs" of the peace process. He "briefed them on his ongoing
consultations and preparatory work for the continuation of the peace process,"
the statement said. There was no mention of his call for a revamp of the peace
process, made in his first address to parliament after being elected.
"This is a vote of confidence," said Erik Solheim, the international development
minister who has been mediating for more than five years. "But we want to make
sure we agree with the government as well as with the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam] on the conditions before we accept to take on that role again," he
told the AFP news agency in Oslo.
The nationalist People's Liberation Front (JVP), which backs Mr Rajapakse, has
accused the Norwegians of being pro-rebel in the past On Wednesday, the party
said it did not think Norway could continue to mediate in the peace process, at
the same time as taking part in a Scandinavian team which monitors a truce
agreed in 2002. "The JVP is not happy with the way the Norwegians have conducted
their role as mediators in the past," spokesman Wimal Weerawansa told a news
conference. But he added: "It is the decision of the president to decide upon
the future role of Norway."