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Norway names new Sri Lanka peace envoy

Written by: Staff

Oslo, Mar 17: Norway appointed a new peace envoy today (Mar 17, 2006) to help mediate between Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels after a conflict in which 64,000 people have died.

Foreign ministry peace expert Jon Hanssen-Bauer, 53, would take over from Erik Solheim, who became Norway's International Development Minister in October 2005 after six years focused only on Sri Lanka.

''Hanssen-Bauer ... will be responsible for the day-to-day work as peace facilitator for the peace process in Sri Lanka,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

''Solheim ... will lead the work, visit Sri Lanka regularly and have responsibility for Norway as facilitator of the peace process,'' it added.

In 2002, Solheim helped broker a truce to the two-decade civil war in the Indian Ocean island. The Tamil Tigers took up arms after demanding a separate state.

Solheim said yesterday that he no longer had time to work both as minister and as peace envoy.

''You can't do this day and night and look after my other government responsibilities,'' he said. Solheim will lead Norway's peace efforts at a next round of Sri Lankan peace talks due to be held in Geneva next month.

Hanssen-Bauer, educated as a social anthropologist, has worked for the ministry's section for peace and reconciliation since 2005.

Before that, he worked at the Fafo institute in Oslo which had a key role in the now-stalled 1993 Oslo accords between Israelis and Palestinians. He was based in Jerusalem in 1997-98.

From 1994-2005, he also acted as an adviser to the foreign ministry about the Middle East peace process.

Solheim, a 51-year-old Socialist, said yesterday that he aimed to stand down from the day-to-day peace work.


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