Government to hold talks with ULFA on February 7 | india | Hindustan Times
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Government to hold talks with ULFA on February 7

Government negotiators will hold talks with an 11-member civil society group nominated by ULFA last year.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 23:09 IST

The Government will hold peace talks next month with representatives of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

ULFA has been blamed for a string of bombings in Assam over the weekend.

The announcement about fresh talks followed attacks on gas and oil pipelines and power installations as well as on security forces by suspected members of ULFA.

Government negotiators will hold talks with an 11-member civil society group nominated by ULFA last year. The group held its first round of talks with the Government in October.

"The Government will hold the second round of talks with us from February 7 in New Delhi, though the modalities for the negotiations are yet to be worked out," Indira Goswami, a noted Assamese writer and mediator between the Government and ULFA said.

"Now I appeal to the ULFA boys to stop the violence and the explosions going on in Assam," Goswami said.

"The talks will primarily try and work out a mutually acceptable peace process leading to the formal declaration of a bilateral ceasefire between ULFA and the central government."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held the first round of talks with the civil society group on October 26.

Beginning on Friday, rebels in Assam triggered at least a dozen explosions and engaged security forces in a gun battle. The violence left two people dead and 23 wounded.

"There were about a dozen explosions and a gun battle in different parts of the state in which two people were killed, and five gas pipelines and three power installations were blown up," Inspector General of Police Khagen Sharma said.

Crude oil and natural gas supplies in Assam have been severely hit due to the bombing of the pipelines ahead of this week's Republic Day celebrations.

A spokesman for state-owned Oil India Limited (OIL), one of the country's leading oil exploration companies, said crude oil supplies to four refineries in Assam was disrupted following attacks on the pipelines.

"Bombings on some pipelines have affected operations in one of our oilfields, leading to disruption of crude oil supply. We are now transporting oil to the refineries using tankers," senior OIL official Nripen Bharali said on telephone from its headquarters at Duliajan in eastern Assam.

The pipelines belong to state-owned Assam Gas Company, which supplies natural gas produced by OIL to domestic and industrial consumers.

"The attacks on the pipelines will result in heavy financial loss and disruption in gas supplies to domestic and industrial consumers like power plants and tea factories," said Assam Gas Company spokesman C Phukan.

ULFA has so far not claimed responsibility for the attacks but police suspect they carried out the blasts before Republic Day on Thursday.

ULFA and five other groups have called a 17-hour general strike from 1 am on Thursday to protest the celebrations marking India's transition to a republic in 1950.

Militant groups in the seven northeastern states have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi's rule.