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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Sri Lanka talks 'in doubt'
Tamil Tiger fighters
The rebels want the government to move faster
Landmark peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tigers could be delayed because of a row over a key ceasefire accord, the rebels say.

The Tiger's chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, accused the government of not fully implementing its part of the agreement, and said talks due in June were now in doubt.


It's 90 days since the agreement was signed but normalcy has yet to dawn in the northern peninsula

Anton Balasingham,
Tiger negotiator
Speaking to London-based Tamil radio station IBC, Mr Balasingham accused Sri Lankan forces of not evacuating schools and other public buildings in line with the Febuary accord.

"We are disappointed with the lack of progress in implementing the truce, this could cause delays in holding the Thailand talks," he said, after talks with Norwegian peace mediatiors.

"It's 90 days since the agreement was signed but normalcy has yet to dawn in the northern peninsula."

Anton Balasingham
Balasingham: Rebels "disappointed"
Mr Balasingham made his remarks after meeting Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen and peace envoy Erik Solheim in London on Wednesday.

Mr Helgesen is due to brief Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before holding more talks with Mr Balasingham.

For the last three years, Mr Balasingham has been living in London representing the Tigers, which is now banned in the United Kingdom.

Delays

Talks between the goverment and the rebels had already been put back from May to June, and the BBC correspondent in Colombo says mutual suspicions have been mounting in recent weeks.

Tamil Tiger rebel
The Tigers want an independent Tamil state
On Wednesday, Mr Wickremesinghe told the BBC he thought talks with the rebels would take place in late June - they had been expected by the middle of the month.

His remarks came as the Ministry of Defence in Colombo sought to allay rebel concerns, by announcing that it was speeding up implementation of its commitments under the ceasefire agreement.

Defence Secretary Austin Fernando also said restrictions on fishing in Tamil areas would be lifted at the end of the week, as agreed in February.

A day earlier the two sides held their first direct talks in six years when a government official flew unexpectedly to rebel territory to hold talks with Tiger negotiators.

More than 60,000 people have died in Sri Lanka's civil war since the Tigers began fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in 1983.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

01 May 02 | South Asia
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
24 Apr 02 | South Asia
14 Mar 02 | South Asia
25 Mar 02 | South Asia
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