|Friday, 16 May 2003|
|Security||Today's Top Story|
by Ranil Wijayapala and Ranga Jayasuriya
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and his deputy Vidar Helgesen yesterday met LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran to coax the Tigers back into negotiations, a day after Japan's deadline to confirm LTTE participation at the Tokyo aid parley expired.
Prabhakaran however reiterated his position that the setting up of a formal mechanism to administer funds for the reconstruction of the North-East is a prerequisite for the Tigers to take part at the aid parley.
LTTE spokesman Daya Master said Prabhakaran had explained the LTTE's inability to handle funds for reconstruction activities in the North-East, unless such a body is legally formed.
"There is no change in the LTTE position (on boycotting the Tokyo talks). It will depend on the Government's response,"the LTTE spokesman said.
Petersen is the third and the highest ranking Norwegian diplomat to meet the LTTE leadership in the last two weeks to push the LTTE to take part in the Tokyo aid conference scheduled for June 9-10. Petersen and Helgesen who flew to Kilinochchi in an Air Force helicopter held talks for two hours with Prabhakaran who was accompanied by his political chief Thamilselvan, Eastern military commanders Karuna, Paduman and legal adviser Rudra Kumar.
The Norwegians were scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last night to brief him on the outcome of the discussions.
Peace Secretariat Chief Bernard Goonatilleke said the Government will work out its position after the Norwegians convey the LTTE stance on its participation at the aid parley.
"The Government is still hopeful that the LTTE will eventually decide to take part in the Tokyo conference," Goonatilleke said.
Helgesen and Eric Solheim had earlier met the LTTE hierarchy to call on them to resume peace talks which the Tigers suspended on April 21 pointing at their displeasure on certain "critical issues" in the peace negotiations.
The LTTE demands the formal establishment of the "administrative, financial and other structures" for the North-East reconstruction and the resettlement of Internally Displaced People in the North-East as a prerequisite to take part in the Tokyo conference.
Meeting with Prabhakaran last week, Japanese Peace Envoy Yasushi Akashi stressed the "extreme difficulty" of re-fixing of dates for the Donor parley.
"The Japanese government can't change its course so easily, it's like a tanker," he was quoted as saying.
He demanded the Tiger chief to confirm the LTTE's participation before May 14.
The Tokyo aid conference where 40 donor nations and 22 international organisations are due to take part is billed to raise three billion US dollars over the next three years for the country's development work including the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-East.
Produced by Lake House