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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Offer to break Sri Lanka deadlock
Sri Lankan president
The president does not have a majority in parliament
By Frances Harrison in Colombo

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has said that she is willing to work with the opposition towards a government of consensus in order to tackle the current political and economic crisis.

But the head of the opposition committee appointed to handle negotiations over a possible Government of National Unity, Karu Jayasuriya, says he has had no such offer from the president.

It is unlikely the opposition will be willing to share power with the president.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga told business leaders that she was willing to form a consensual government which would work towards a common programme.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
The opposition is unlikely to agree
It is unclear what this means in practice, but it appears to be some sort of offer to share cabinet positions in return for support for her minority government.

It is likely to be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the main opposition United National Party who believe they can command a majority in parliament, if the President recalls the house, which she suspended in the face of a no-confidence motion.

Overtures

There have been weeks of speculation about the formation of a government of national unity, with mounting pressure from business leaders.

The head of the opposition committee recently set up to handle negotiations with the government, Karu Jayasuriya says he has received no offer from the president to share power, though he said individual politicians had received various overtures.

Mr Jayasuriya said his party had several preconditions to be fulfilled for lending its support, namely that parliament be reconvened, democratic reforms instituted and the powers of the executive presidency curbed.

He also said opposition parties wanted any government of national unity to be comprised of a small cabinet of professionals, and to be headed by the political leader commanding the highest confidence in parliament.

The latest offer from the president suggests she is running out of options to solve the current political crisis, which threatens the country with a period of instability it can ill afford.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sri Lankan Justice Minister Batty Weerakoon
"It would mean parties that could come to some degree of consensus"
United National Party MP Karu Jayasuriya
"We have not received any official information"
See also:

11 Jul 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka president 'undemocratic'
20 Jun 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka coalition in crisis
06 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sri Lanka
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