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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
US positive about Sri Lanka talks
Crowds at a government-led demonstration in Colombo, Sri Lanka expressing solidarity with moves to enter into peace talks with Tamil Tigers
Huge crowds gathered in Colombo to support peace talks

The United States has said it is hopeful peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tiger rebels next week in Thailand will lead to a permanent end to the conflict.

In a statement, the US embassy in Colombo said it sensed that conditions were favourable for a desirable outcome.

Bomb attack in Colombo
The bitter ethnic conflict has lasted nearly 20 years
Meanwhile, a member of the government delegation to the talks has said they will do their best to bring peace with honour, but warned there were unlikely to be any quick results.

The US embassy welcomed the peace talks, but said it expected a resolution that maintains the island's territorial integrity.

That is a welcome reassurance for the Sri Lankan Government, which is negotiating with rebels who still have not formally and categorically given up their demand for a separate state.

Goodwill

Government spokesman GL Peiris, himself a member of the negotiating team, said they were strengthened in their task by an enormous reservoir of public goodwill.

"We assure the country that we will leave no stone unturned, we will do our best to bring peace to our country - but peace with honour," he said.

Mr Peiris stressed that any deal would "respect and uphold the rights and aspirations of all the people of our country".

He said the peace process had succeeded in putting Sri Lanka on the radar screen of the world, which is why the prime minister is heading an investors' forum in New York, straight after the peace talks.

'Difficult negotiations'

Mr Peiris also cautioned against overly high expectations, saying the main purpose of the first round of talks would be to prepare the agenda for the next sessions expected to take place every three weeks.

He said the two sides would be discussing the implementation of the ceasefire, the economic development of the country as a whole and legal and political mechanisms for the devolution of power.

In particular, Mr Peiris said in the medium term the agenda would consider division of power between the central government and interim councils over issues like public services, land, the police and borrowing from foreign governments and institutions.

The Norwegians, who have been brokering a peace deal in Sri Lanka since 1997 have described the current state of play as "the end of the beginning - the period of creating goodwill is over, and the difficult negotiations about to start".


Peace efforts

Background

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TALKING POINT
See also:

05 Sep 02 | South Asia
06 Sep 02 | South Asia
05 Sep 02 | Business
03 Sep 02 | South Asia
01 Sep 02 | South Asia
30 Aug 02 | South Asia
07 Aug 02 | Crossing Continents
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