ULFA leaders meet Chidambaram

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (PTI) Leaders of the banned ULFAtoday met Home Minister P Chidambaram as they beganface-to-face unconditional talks with the Centre in an attemptto usher in peace in insurgency-hit Assam.

An eight-member ULFA delegation led by its ''chairman''Arabinda Rajkhowa met Chidambaram at his North Block officehere as a part of an introductory meeting.

The meeting was followed by a full session with seniorHome Ministry officials led by Home Secretary G K Pillai.

Today''s meet assumes significance as it took place forthe first time in ULFA''s 31-year-old history.

The meeting will also be attended by Assam HomeSecretary N K Das, Additional Director General Police (Assam)Khagen Sharma, Assam Home Commissioner Jishnu Barua, Centre''sinterlocutor P C Haldar, Secretary (Internal Security) U KBansal and Intelligence Bureau chief N Sandhu.

"Today''s meeting is a preliminary one, more so afamiliarisation exercise," a senior Home Ministry officialsaid.

On February 5, the ULFA announced that it will sit forunconditional talks with the Centre "respecting the wishes ofthe people of Assam". It also apologised for the violent actsit committed.

Apart from Rajkhowa, ''vice-chairman'' Pradip Gogoi,''political advisor'' Bhimakanta Buragohain, ''foreign secretary''Sasha Choudhury, ''finance secretary'' Chitrabon Hazarika,''cultural secretary'' Pranati Deka, ''publicity secretary''Mithinga Daimary and ''deputy commander-in-chief'' Raju Baruawill participate in the talks.

They arrived here last evening and were whisked awayby armed security men.

Before leaving for the national capital, the ULFAleaders met Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and sought hiscooperation to take forward the peace process with the Centre.

"I hope talks with the Centre is successful and theydiscussed with me how to take the peace process forward",Gogoi had said.

Rajkhowa said the modalities for the talks have notbeen worked out so far and will come later.

The ULFA leaders released from jail recently havedecided to hold unconditional talks with the government butthe faction led by the group''s ''commander-in-chief'' PareshBarua is opposed to it.

The ULFA delegation is also likely to meet PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh on February 13 after his return fromKerala.

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