Soldier killed as constitution talks start in Sri Lanka | india | Hindustan Times
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Soldier killed as constitution talks start in Sri Lanka

The government says it hopes the first meeting of a committee aimed at reforming the constitution will be the first step to peace.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2006 12:03 IST

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels killed a Sri Lankan soldier in a mine ambush on Tuesday, the army said, while in the capital a meeting on constitutional reform began without the rebels or opposition.

The government says it hopes the first meeting of a committee aimed at reforming the constitution will be the first step to peace, but they say they fear the Tigers will keep up violence in an attempt to destroy a 2002 ceasefire and start a new civil war.

"There was an explosion -- an attack on a foot patrol," army spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said, blaming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the attack on the northern Jaffna peninsula. "One soldier was killed."

Security forces in Jaffna said the claymore mine -- a block of plastic explosive that sends out a hail off ball bearings when detonated -- was hidden under a tree where soldiers often rested.

More than 700 people have been killed so far this year, over 200 in June alone. Violence appears to have fallen slightly in July, but with the peace process still entirely deadlocked, military sources say the Tigers may be preparing a new attack.

The Tigers, who have fought for two decades for an ethnic Tamil homeland in the north and east, say that the government is not serious and accuse the military of attacks on Tamil civilians. They pulled out of talks in April.

The government says it wants to move beyond discussing the battered ceasefire -- and a breakaway group of ex-Tiger fighters now said to be government-backed -- to talk about a lasting solution to a conflict that has killed some 65,000 people.

That would mean changing Sri Lanka's constitution to give more power to the northern and eastern provinces that are home to minority Tamils and Muslims. But few expect the government's appointed committee will offer enough to satisfy the rebels.

Neither the rebels nor their political proxies will attend and on Saturday the opposition United National Party (UNP) also pulled out of the meeting.

The UNP said the government had not enough given details on its stance on the peace process, but the party is also unhappy over the recent defection of UNP parliamentarians to the government.