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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Tempers flare over Tiger ban
Scene of Tiger attack
The ban was imposed after a rebel bomb attack
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga says she is against lifting a ban on Tamil Tiger rebels before landmark peace talks start later this month.


The ban on the LTTE should be lifted based on the positive results from the peace talks

President Kumaratunga
In a statement, the president said the government should remove the ban only if the peace talks succeeded, and not before.

The rebels have demanded the 1998 ban, set to end on Friday, be lifted as a precondition for talks.

President Kumaratunga's comments came as Norway, which has been mediating between the two sides, and Thailand finalised arrangements for the talks, which are to be held at a naval base near Bangkok.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] were banned in Sri Lanka in January 1998 after a truck bomb attack against one of Buddhism's holiest shrines in which 20 people were killed.

They are also banned in the United States, India, Australia, Britain and Canada.

Hardliners

Mrs Kumaratunga says there was no cabinet vote to lift the ban - a decision taken when she was out of the country.

Chandrika Kumaratunga
President: Angry with PM
"The ban on the LTTE should be lifted based on the positive results from the peace talks," a statement released by her office said on Sunday after she had met hardliners opposed to easing restrictions on the rebels.

"I would certainly have opposed lifting the ban if the matter came before cabinet when I was there."

She also made clear her opposition to an interim administration in the Tamil north-east of Sri Lanka.

"This should happen only after a consensus is reached and as a transitional arrangement until the final agreement is implemented," her statement said.

Tensions

Correspondents say the current efforts offer the best chance ever to bring peace to Sri Lanka, where nearly 65,000 people have been killed in the LTTE's campaign for a separate homeland for minority Tamils since 1983.

But Sri Lanka's co-habitation government has been under strain for some months.

The Tigers say they are worried that tensions between the president and her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, could delay the peace process.

Mrs Kumaratunga has sweeping constitutional powers, but lost control of parliament in general elections last December.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

15 Aug 02 | South Asia
15 Aug 02 | South Asia
14 Aug 02 | South Asia
14 Aug 02 | Crossing Continents
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