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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 01:19 GMT
Sri Lanka given cash for peace
Sri Lanka PM Ranil Wickramasinghe (left) and Tamil Tigers chief negotiator Anton Balasingham meet in Oslo
Wickramasinghe and Balasingham: ''Constructive'' talks
International countries have pledged $70m in immediate aid to Sri Lanka to help end the 19-year conflict between the government and rebel Tamil Tigers.

A one-day donors' conference in Oslo ended on an optimistic note, correspondents say.

But while both Sri Lankan officials and guerrilla representatives said they believed a ceasefire could work, the US representative said the Tigers would remain on a list of international terrorists.


Our organisation is sincerely and firmly committed to peace and a negotiated settlement

Tamil Tiger negotiator Anton Balasingham

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the conference that the ''tactics of terror can never achieve legitimate aspirations''.

Monday's conference, attended by delegates of 39 countries, was organised to back peace moves and increase donor funds for Sri Lanka.

Mr Armitage told delegates, including Tamil Tiger lead negotiator Anton Balasingham: "The US encourages the [Tamil Tigers] to make a public declaration renouncing their armed struggle for a separate state and accept to settle the conflict through peaceful means."

Mr Balasingham replied that ''our organisation is sincerely and firmly committed to peace and a negotiated settlement''.

Peace 'next year'

The United States designated the Tigers a "foreign terrorist organisation" in 1997 and has stepped up its opposition since the 11 September attacks on the US.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe said he hoped his country could achieve peace next year - the first time he had set a time frame for an end to the conflict.

''Difficulties have to be encountered in the next few months," he said. ''But [we must] also create opportunities to take this process to a point from which there can be no return.''

Sri Lankan soldiers on patrol
A ceasefire has held - despite some violations

Mr Wickramasinghe and Mr Balasingham were attending the conference to ask jointly for economic and political help to end the conflict that has claimed 60,000 lives since 1972.

The BBC's Lars Bevanger in Oslo said the emphasis of the meeting quickly moved from funding to the importance of international political support for the peace process.

On Sunday, Mr Wickramasinghe met Mr Balasingham for the first such high-level talks between the parties in 12 years.

The prime minister described the talks as ''very constructive''.

He said there would have to be, from time to time, "many more meetings like this".

The two sides have been observing a ceasefire since 23 February, the longest since the start of the conflict, although there have been alleged violations.

A number of peace attempts have failed in the past.


Peace efforts

Background

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TALKING POINT
See also:

25 Nov 02 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | South Asia
15 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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