Pillai to chair first round of talks with ULFA

New Delhi, Feb 6 (PTI) Home Secretary G K Pillai willchair the first round of the much-awaited talks with the ULFAwhile Home Minister P Chidambaram may have an introductorymeeting with the leadership of the banned group during theFebruary 10 meeting.

Centre''s interlocutor P C Haldar said the proposedmeeting in Delhi will be a familiarisation exercise for bothsides to know each other''s view before the formal dialogueprocess.

"It will be a preparatory kind of meeting. The talkswill begin with a meeting with Home Secretary while the HomeMinister may drop in to meet the ULFA leaders if he isavailable," Haldar told PTI.

ULFA ''foreign secretary'' Sasadhar Choudhury hintedthat the group''s core demand of ''sovereignty'' will not bediscussed as it decided to go for "unconditional talks".

Though the ULFA leaders want Prime Minister ManmohanSingh to be present during the talks as he represents Assam inParliament, such a possibility is remote due to the paucity oftime.

"The ULFA leaders may meet the Prime Minister but itwill be only a courtesy call. The Prime Minister will not getinto the nitty-gritty of the talks," Haldar said.

Peace talks with ULFA are expected to give a majorboost to Congress party -- which has been ruling Assam for twoconsecutive terms -- before the Assembly elections inApril-May.

However, doubts have been raised whether the peaceprocess would be successful as ULFA''s elusive military chiefParesh Baruah is opposed to any dialogue with the governmentif the group''s key demand of sovereignty is not discussed.

Baruah is still at large and believed to be in Myanmarwhere ULFA reportedly operates armed training camps.

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