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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 17:17 GMT
Norway in Sri Lanka peace effort

Efforts are being made to end the long-running civil war

A senior Norwegian diplomat has met Sri Lanka's acting foreign minister amid speculation that Norway could become involved in efforts to end the country's long-running civil war.

Leive Lunde, a senior official in Norway's foreign ministry, met acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriealla as well as opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and members of Tamil parties.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • Norway's Foreign Minister, Knut Vollebaek, was originally scheduled to visit Colombo but his trip was postponed because his Sri Lankan counterpart, Lakshman Kadirgamar, is ill.

    R Sampadan, an MP of the Tamil United Liberation Front Party, said Mr Lunde discussed the prospects of peace in Sri Lanka.

    The Tamil parties want a solution acceptable to all
    Tamil MP R Sampandan
    "The discussion was mainly about achieving a consensus between the government and the main opposition United National Party," he said.

    "The Tamil parties want a solution acceptable to all, but the first step is to get the two main parties to agree on the basics and then also involve the rebels in a final solution," he added.

    Ranil Wickremesinghe has offered his support

    UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said his talks with Mr Lunde were wide-ranging but did not include any specific moves towards peace.

    Nevertheless, the BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo says the visit of the Norwegian delegation has made front page news in Sri Lanka.

    Devolution plan

    Last week, Mr Wickremesinghe said he would extend his support to a devolution plan proposed by the Sri Lankan Government.

    The power-sharing agreement would allow limited autonomy to Tamil majority areas, and needs the UNP's backing to push it through parliament.

    The government said it would discuss the proposals with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have previously rejected the plan.

    Analysts say a third party peace initiative could be used to begin an unofficial, backdoor dialogue between the two sides.

    Norway has often facilitated such dialogue in areas of conflict, and was instrumental in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together to launch the Middle East peace process.

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    See also:
    20 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka devolution plan
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    11 Aug 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka: Searching for a solution
    14 Aug 99 |  South Asia
    Hope for Sri Lankan peace
    23 Oct 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lankan president vows peace

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