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Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Tigers kept off devolution councils
Alleged Tamil Tiger attack
The Tigers struck in the capital last week
By Susannah Price in Colombo

The Sri Lankan Government has announced that the rebel Tamil Tigers will be barred from taking part in any interim council in the north-east province, which is being proposed as part of a devolution plan.

There would be no role for the separatist movement unless they joined the democratic process, President Kumaratunga has made clear.

An official statement said the opposition and government had discussed setting up an interim administration for the north-east prior to holding a referendum, but did not mention a time frame.

The government is currently carrying out talks with the main opposition party to come up with a consensus on the devolution package.

Hopes for peace

The government is pinning its hopes for peace on the success of the devolution package which will give more autonomy to the north and east.

The ongoing discussions with the opposition United National Party appear to be making progress.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Kumaratunga wants no Tigers on the councils
The state-run Sunday Observer newspaper said both sides had reached agreement on at least 60% of the topics in the devolution plan.

One of the main issues is whether the current north-east province would remain as a single unit or be divided.

A government statement said both sides should discuss setting up an interim administrative council for the north and east until a referendum was held to decide the future of the province.

There are differing opinions about whether the plan should first be presented to the Tamil Tigers or be brought directly to parliament.

This would have to be done soon, as parliament is due to be dissolved in August for fresh elections to be held.

Clashes continue

There are reports of clashes in the north-east, with the government saying eight Tamil Tigers were killed during fighting in Polonnaruwa district and two more in clashes in the Jaffna peninsula and Mullaitivu.

The local Sunday Times newspaper has said the army chief, Lieutenant-General Srilal Weerasooriya is going to Islamabad on Tuesday to meet the Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

The paper said General Weerasooriya would brief General Musharraf on the military situation in the north.

The paper said the visit was being viewed as a measure of appreciation for Pakistan selling Sri Lanka supplies of defence equipment to help with its continuing battle against the Tamil Tigers in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | South Asia
Canada's Tamils under scrutiny
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
Suicide bomb in Sri Lanka
07 Jun 00 | South Asia
Bomb kills Sri Lankan minister
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