Patil hints at releasing top jailed Ulfa leaders

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Shillong, May 13 (UNI) Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today hinted at the possibility of releasing top jailed ULFA leaders, a major hurdle in taking the peace task forward, if the outfit set a fixed date for opening direct negotiations.

Talking to reporters on his two-day visit to the state, he said '' we are not against releasing the jailed ULFA leaders. But that can happen only after the outfit comes up with formal approach for talks, including the date and the venue.'' The outfit's demand for the release of its top five jailed leaders, including the main idealogue Bhimkanta Buragohain and vice- president Pradeep Gogoi, besides the inclusion of 'sovereignity' as the core issue, had emerged as the stumbling blocks in taking the talks forward.

Though the government had sent feelers through various quarters on sagging stand over the twin issues, the outfit is not ready to buy anything short of a written assurance on the issues.

Mr Patil reiterated the government's readiness in starting talks with the ULFA, but insisted that the conditions should be acceptable to both sides.

Stressing the government's commitment in taking the peace process forward, Mr Patil pointed that discussions with the ULFA nominated Peoples Consultative Group were held with the government's highest authority, indicating the round of talks held with the Prime Minister.

Conceding that the overall security scenario in the entire north east remained a concern , Mr Patil said the situation had not changed much.

'' Incidences of violent incidents by and large remained the same in NE over the last couple of years,'' he added.

UNI SG KK MSJ YS1924

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