ULFA to sit for unconditional talks with Centre on Feb 10

Guwahati, Feb 5 (PTI) For the first time in its 31-year-long struggle, the banned ULFA today decided to hold face-to-face talks with the Centre and said there was no split inits ranks on the issue.

The much-awaited talks will be held on February 10 inNew Delhi.

Talking to reporters, ULFA leader Sasadhar Choudhurysaid that the group "would like Prime Minister Manmohan Singhto be present during the talks on Thursday as he representsAssam in Parliament".

Terming the first round of talks as a "courtesy call",the ULFA ''foreign secretary'' said, "Respecting the wishes ofthe people of Assam and the Jatiya Abhibartan (a group ofintellectuals), we have decided to go for talks."

Asked whether ULFA''s core demand of ''sovereignty forAssam'' would be discussed, Choudhury avoiding a direct replysaying, "We have decided to go for unconditional talks.

Through talks, the process for resolution of Assam''s problemswill be started."

But when persisted on its reaction on the contentiousdemand, he said, "Talks will not be held if the sovereigntyissue is raised again by us."

Asked if the ULFA had dropped the demand, he said,"Due to the situation in the state in 1979 we wantedsovereignty for Assam. ULFA was born and we went out to carryon our struggle. Now we shall have to do what the people ofAssam want."

Centre''s interlocutor P C Haldar termed thedevelopment as "very positive which will facilitate the groundfor very constrictive and meaningful dialogue".

The released leaders also claimed there was no splitin its ranks as ''chairman'' Arabinda Rajkhowa and elusive''commander-in-chief'' Paresh Baruah were in frequent contactwith each other.

"There is no division in the ULFA. Paresh Baruah isstill our commander-in-chief," ''vice-chairman'' Pradip Gogoisaid.

The decision to hold talks Centre was taken at theexecutive committee and general council meetings this week,Choudhury said, adding ULFA is yet to select its leaders toparticipate in the discussions.

"Our charter of demands is being prepared. We will letthe people of Assam know what they are. We will carry theopinions of all sections of people in the state.

"Our agenda will, however, definitely focus on what isthe best option for the solution to the socio-politicalproblems of the state," he said, adding the success of thetalks will depend on the "sincerity of the Centre". (MORE) PTIESB

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