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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Olive branch to Tamil Tigers
Police in Colombo
An attempt to end 17 years of conflict
By Alastair Lawson in Colombo

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has said that her government is prepared to discuss a peace plan with Tamil Tigers rebels.

The plan is part of efforts to end the 17-year-long civil war in the island between government forces and the rebels.

Peace proposal
More autonomy for local administrations
Needs two-thirds majority in parliament
Must be presented by August
Last week, the government and the main opposition United National Party agreed to draft a new constitution for the country.

President Kumartunga told a delegation from the European Union that the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people had to be met.

She said that the door remained open for the Tamil Tigers to discuss her plan to change the Sri Lankan constitution and allow the provinces to have more autonomy.

In what is seen by some commentators as a significant change of direction, the president did not repeat her earlier demand that the Tigers must enter the democratic mainstream before they take part in negotiations.

The president told the EU delegation that over the last few weeks, 13 out of the 14 parties in parliament had met to discuss her reform proposals.

She said this was an historic first.

She also reiterated her belief that her reform package would be presented to parliament before it dissolves in August.

Tamil opposition

Earlier President Kumaratunga met with senior leaders of one of the main Tamil Parties, the Tamil United Liberation Front (Tulf).

President Chandrika Kumaratunga
President Kumaratunga: Trying to persuade opposition
They re-stated their view that her devolution proposals were unacceptable.

The party argues that Sri Lanka should become a loose confederation of states rather than a unitary state as envisioned in Mrs Kumaratunga's plans.

It also objects to the suggestion that a referendum should be held on the President's devolution proposals.

The Tulf opposition to President Kumaratunga's plans is a setback for the government as it tries to get the reform package through parliament.

For that President Kumaratunga needs a two-thirds majority, and she is unlikely to get that without the support of smaller parties.

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See also:

07 Jul 00 | South Asia
Boost for Sri Lankan peace
01 Jul 00 | South Asia
'Progress' in Sri Lanka reform talks
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Norway role in Sri Lanka peace plan
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