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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Norway pushes for Sri Lanka peace
Tiger gunner
Tamil Tigers want the government ban lifted
Norwegian peace envoy Vidar Helgesen has held talks with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga amid signs that talks between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tiger rebels could be further delayed.

Mr Helgesen told the Sri Lankan television station, Maharajah, on Monday that agreeing an agenda for talks was more important than the timetable.


Time is clearly important but the most important thing is to agree on an agenda for talks

Vidar Helgesen
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monda that "we hope talks will start in June or July at the very latest."

Talks were initially expected in May, but a key sticking point for the rebels is the question of when the Sri Lankan Government will lift a ban on their organisation.

They also accuse the government of not completely fulfilling its side of the ceasefire agreement signed by both sides in February.

Mediation efforts

Mr Helgesen has been criss-crossing the globe in a bid to smooth the path for the Thailand talks.

He was in London last week for talks with the UK-based chief rebel negotiator, Anton Balasingham, and then travelled to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

He will be stopping in London once again en route back to Oslo on Tuesday.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister
Ranil Wickramasinghe: Talks in June or July
Mr Wickramasinghe has been in Brussels for talks with the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi.

He will arrive in London on Tuesday when he will meet members of the British Government.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have complained that government troops have not fully withdrawn from various places such as schools, temples and public buildings as outlined in the ceasefire agreement.

However, the government has made a number of moves recently, including lifting a fishing ban in northern waters and withdrawing troops from some public buildings.

The Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland for the country's Tamil population since 1983.

The majority Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka has ruled out the possibility of independence for the Tamils, but has conceded that some form of devolution could be possible.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

24 May 02 | South Asia
23 May 02 | South Asia
21 May 02 | South Asia
14 Mar 02 | South Asia
25 Mar 02 | South Asia
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