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Rescheduled direct talks to be put off further

Written by: Staff
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Colombo, Apr 15 (UNI) The rescheduled direct talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels in Geneva are likely to be further postponed with the LTTE today unilaterally pulling out of the sea transport agreement.

The agreement was aimed at facilitating the movement of LTTE leaders from the Eastern province to the North in order to enable them to complete their preparations for the next round of Geneva talks.

''The LTTE today has pulled out of the sea transport arrangement unilaterally. This withdrawal has now created a few question marks.

We still hope that the Geneva talks will take place as planned on April 24 and 25. The government is fully committed and making all preparation to attend the Geneva talks. Now the ball is in the LTTE's court,'' head of the Government Peace Secretariat and Senior Advisor of the President, Dr Palitha Kohona told reports here today.

Dr Kohona said the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) Maj Gen Ulf Henrikkson has informed him that the LTTE cadres who boarded the vessel to go to East to release their Eastern commanders to come to Wanni, had disembarked from the vessel protesting to the security provided by the Sri Lankan navy for their movement.

Dr Kohona said it was agreed in writing that the sea transportation for the unarmed LTTE cadres in civic uniform would be with the navy protection and not with the LTTE protection.

Claiming that the sea transport arrangement was made despite repeated provocative attacks by the LTTE in the past couple of days, Dr Kohona expressed government's disappointment over the LTTE's unilateral decision to pull of the arrangement citing various reasons.

Meanwhile, LTTE's political head, S P Thamilselvan today has written an urgent letter to SLMM head complaining that the ''excessive interference'' by the Sri Lankan Navy in the sea transport of LTTE commanders, was in total contradiction to the prior agreement and has resulted in canceling the sea travel of the LTTE commanders at the last moment in Mullaitivu, the Tamilnet website reported today.

''These excessive interferences by the Sri Lankan Navy in the sea transport of our commanders, in total contradiction to the prior agreement with you, have made us loose faith in the promises made by SLMM. It has also brought to the open the anti-peace-talks stance of the GoSL and the Sri Lankan military,'' Mr Thamilselvan was quoted as saying in the letter to the SLMM head.

He said these actions have ''angered and disappointed our leadership and at the same time made it impossible for our leadership to meet and discuss issues prior to the Genevat talks.'' ''We wish to emphasise that today's incident has put into question our decision and subsequent efforts to go to Geneva and that the actions of the GoSL and Sri Lankan military is the reason for this unfortunate situation,'' Mr Thamilselvan said.

Yesterday, the Geneva direct talks, previously scheduled to begin on April 19, were rescheduled for April 24.

UNI XC SC RN1651

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