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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
India reaffirms Sri Lanka backing
Prime ministers Ranil Wickramasinge and Atal Behari Vajpayee
India still wants the Tiger chief extradited
India has reiterated its support for the Sri Lankan peace process, but is standing firm on its demand for the extradition of the chief of the Tamil Tiger rebels.


The Indian Government remains fully supportive of the measures taken by the Sri Lankan Government to take the peace process forward

Indian foreign ministry statement
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinge received the assurances during several rounds of talks with Indian leaders in Delhi.

Mr Wickramasinghe, who is nearing the end of a five-day visit to India, met his counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee and several other ministers.

Speaking after meeting Mr Wickramasinghe, India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said Delhi had "no reason to be dissatisfied" with progress towards peace talks aimed at ending almost two decades of civil war on the island.

Mr Singh said Delhi and Colombo were holding "constant consultations".

India's support is seen as vital for the success of any peace deal given the country's influence over its smaller neighbour.

Extradition demand

"India has been entirely and fully supportive of the peace process," Mr Singh told reporters.

But he added Delhi still wanted the extradition of the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who allegedly ordered the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Aftermath of bombing in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has suffered years of war

The demand for Velupillai Prabhakaran's extradition was made in 1995.

"That has been clarified sufficiently well... there is no change in the government of India's position," Mr Singh was quoted as saying.

On Monday, the Indian Government said it had agreed to supply Sri Lanka with 300,000 tonnes of wheat.

Announcing the move, Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said Delhi would also approve a credit line of $100m for Indian goods to the island.

Ban discussion

Mr Wickramasinghe's meeting with Mr Vajpayee on Tuesday was expected to focus on the proposed lifting of Sri Lanka's ban on the Tigers but little details have emerged of the discussions between the two leaders.

The Tigers want the ban lifted at home before they enter Norwegian-brokered peace talks with the government.

Delhi once backed the Tamil Tigers, but outlawed them after a Tiger suicide bomber killed Rajiv Gandhi.

Sri Lanka is keen that a de-proscription at home will not automatically lead to the lifting of the ban on the Tamil Tigers abroad, where they are outlawed in several countries, including Britain and the US.


Peace efforts

Background

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TALKING POINT
See also:

10 Jun 02 | South Asia
04 Jun 02 | South Asia
30 May 02 | South Asia
23 May 02 | South Asia
31 May 02 | Business
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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