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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Sri Lanka monk protest broken up
Police fire teargas to break up the protest
Police fire teargas to break up the protest
Police in Sri Lanka have used teargas and batons to break up a protest by Buddhist monks opposed to a tsunami-aid deal with Tamil rebels.

The monks were marching towards the residence of President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the capital, Colombo.

In a related development, the president has begun talks with the opposition after a key coalition partner threatened to quit over the aid deal.

Opponents of the aid plan say it will give the rebels legitimacy.

Dozens of monks took part in Monday's protest which is said to have caused a huge traffic jam in the capital.

"First they tear-gassed and used batons to beat up the protestors," a witness is quoted as saying by AFP.

If the president thinks one life is not enough, we can offer thousands of lives
Kalawelgala Chandraloka, monk spokesman

One monk, Dambara Amila, has been on a "death fast" to protest the deal.

"If the president thinks one life is not enough, we can offer thousands of lives," a spokesman for the monks, Kalawelgala Chandraloka, said.

Crisis talks

President Kumaratunga has been meeting opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe and other leaders to discuss the crisis.

"She is going to discuss the present political climate and the tsunami aid distribution mechanism with political parties to get their support," a spokesman for their office said.

Sri Lanka is more than 70% Buddhist, with monks wielding considerable influence and power.

The nationalist JVP have threatened to walk out of Ms Kumaratunga's government, which depends on the party's 39 MPs for its survival.

Mrs Kumaratunga has said no date has been set for the establishment of the Tsunami Relief Board that will work on distributing the aid.

It is nearly six months since 31,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka in the tsunami and some 500,000 people left homeless.




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