Top Norwegian envoy tries to restart Sri Lankan peace talks
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP): A top Norwegian peace negotiator will try to remove hurdles to peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels during his visit to the island starting Monday.
Erik Solheim was expected to meet President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Tamil Tigers' political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan to work out differences between the two sides and set a date for talks, which have been suspended since the rebels withdrew in April 2003.
The rebels have insisted that the government agree to four demands before talks begin: accept the Tigers as the sole representative of minority Tamils, give the rebels equal status at peace talks, discuss a rebel blueprint for Tamil autonomy, and conduct the talks outside of Sri Lanka.
Kumaratunga previously has rejected the blueprint for self rule, calling it a stepping stone to a separate state.
Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for minority Tamils claiming discrimination.
The conflict killed 65,000 people before a 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire, which has held despite the suspension of talks.