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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Norwegians - 'salmon-eating busybodies'
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Ms Kumaratunga's party is not amused
The party of Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga has branded peace broker Norway a "nation of salmon-eaters" who have become "international busybodies".

The attack came after Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik reportedly said he hoped some politicians could be more flexible in dealing with Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels.

A leading aide of President Kumaratunga, Samaraweera, said Mr Bondevik had "not shown any sensitivity to the feelings of Sri Lankans".

"Of course we can't expect anything better from a nation of salmon-eaters who turned into international busybodies," Mr Samaraweera said.

He said Ms Kumaratunga's Sri Lanka Freedom Party would lodge a formal protest with the Norwegian king "in a day or two".

Mr Samaraweera said the Sri Lankan Government should reconsider Norway's role in the peace process.

Sniping

Mr Bondevik was asked on a trip to Japan this week whether the cohabitation government in Sri Lanka should be more flexible in dealing with Tamil Tiger rebels and said. "I hope so, yes."

Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik
Mr Bondevik can expect a formal protest "in a day or two"

"It is the government that is leading the negotiating process... so I hope they will move forward," he said.

It was Ms Kumaratunga who first asked Norway to help bring the Tamil Tigers to the negotiating table.

However, she lost elections in December 2001 to Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and has since been seen by many as swimming upstream against the peace process.

She has often sniped at Norwegian officials. They have always replied that they are happy to help, but are not mediators, merely facilitators doing what they are asked by the Sri Lankan Government.

Norwegian diplomats say the country's involvement in peace negotiations is an effective form of diplomacy which promotes its image abroad.

Last week, Ms Kumaratunga said Norway had exceeded its brief and turned from a facilitator to an arbitrator.

Another Kumaratunga loyalist and spokesman for the opposition People's Alliance, Sarath Amunugama, also objected to Mr Bondevik's words.

"He is not the imperial master of Sri Lanka," Mr Amunugama said.


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