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Japanese envoy in talks with Govt amid more violence

Yasushi Akashi began his peace bid amid continued shelling between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2006 16:53 IST

A Japanese peace envoy opened talks with Sri Lankan leaders on Monday as the international community stepped up pressure to salvage peace talks many fear have been doomed by an upsurge in violence.

Yasushi Akashi, who arrived in Colombo late on Sunday, began his peace bid amid continued shelling overnight between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He first met with Sri Lanka's former chief peace negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva, and was to hold talks with other Colombo-based political parties later in the day, government officials said.

Akashi is also expected to meet top LTTE leaders during his six-day visit, although a sit-down with the Tiger's reclusive commander Velupillai Prabhakaran is unlikely.

The envoy would "exchange views on the peace process and its future with leaders of political parties, international organisations and others," the Japanese embassy said in a statement.

His arrival is the first of several by foreign envoys this week as the international community struggles to keep planned peace talks on October 28-29 in Switzerland on track.

Norway, the main peace broker in Sri Lanka, was planning to send special envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer on Tuesday to work out details for the talks, while US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher was also expected later this week to meet the warring sides.

More than 2,200 people have been killed in spiralling violence since December, according to official figures.

Both sides have accused each other of sporadic attacks since major clashes last week, including shelling and air strikes against villages.

First Published: Oct 16, 2006 16:53 IST