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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 13:11 GMT
Boost for Sri Lanka peace hopes
Sri Lankan soldier
The war has dragged on for nearly two decades
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By Priyath Liyanage
BBC Sinhala service editor

For the last three years, Anton Balasingham has been living in London representing the Tamil Tigers, which is now a banned organisation in the UK.

His mere presence makes a huge difference to the political future of the peace process

When he arrived in London from Sri Lanka three years ago, the Tamil Tigers were still at war with the government forces.

He remained in London with his Australian-born wife, receiving treatment for a kidney problem.

When the Norwegian peace initiative was re launched last year, his presence in London made him a convenient contact point for Norwegian mediators.

Highly respected

Anton Balasingham is known to be the political theoretician of the Tamil Tigers. He is thought to be well respected by the Tiger leadership.

Tamil Tiger rebel leader
Rebel leader Prabhakaran: Will discuss details of peace process
Mr Balasingham is also thought to be the only person who would have authority to represent the organisation - apart from supreme leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

Mr Balasingham, accompanied by the Norwegian negotiators, is expected to talk to the leader of the Tamil Tigers about the details prior to peace negotiations which according to some observers, could start in a few weeks time.

The expected meeting of the two men would be of enormous significance to the peace process which has gradually been gathering momentum since the new government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe came to power in December last year.

Support for peace process

His decision to return is another boost for the government, which came to power on a mandate to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict which has cost over 60,000 lives in nearly two decades.

The return of Anton Balasingham also shows the Tamil Tigers are actually positive about peace.

Mr Balasingham himself is not expected to spend more than a few days in the rebel-held area due to his health problems.

Yet his mere presence makes a huge difference to the political future of the peace process on the island.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka PM visits troubled north
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka eases Tamil embargo
22 Mar 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka prepares ground for talks
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