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Lanka: Pressure on Govt, LTTE to be more flexible

Talks between Sri Lanka's warring parties entered the second and final day, as foreign pressure mounted on both sides to be more flexible and save Lanka's peace process.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 17:12 IST

Talks between Sri Lanka's warring parties entered the second and final day on Thursday, as foreign pressure mounted on both sides to display more flexibility and save the island's troubled peace process.

Although negotiators from the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sat down at the table, their uncompromising stands put the entire ice-breaking initiative at risk, diplomats said.

The final round of the talks got underway after Sri Lanka's key international financial backers -- the US, Japan, the European Union and Norway -- asked the two sides to be more accommodating.

"We urge parties to approach the opportunity with an open and flexible attitude," said the quartet known as "Co-Chairs" in a statement issued in Washington.

The four countries led efforts in June 2003 to help raise 4.5 billion dollars in foreign aid, and much of the assistance is linked to progress in peace efforts.

Peace broker Norway managed to clinch a deal on January 25 with both parties agreeing to end a three-year deadlock in the peace drive, fixing neutral Switzerland as the venue for talks.

The last time the government and Tigers met before the Celigny talks kicked off on Wednesday was in Hakone, Japan in March 2003.

The chilly Alpine climateof Switzerlandfailed to coolhot heads at the table, according to officials and diplomats associated with the process.

The talks at an 18th-century chateau in this peaceful village near Geneva touched on the emotive issues of sovereignty and national security, with the new Sri Lankan government questioning the legality of the ceasefire arranged by Norway four years ago.

"There is no development to report," a Sri Lankan government official said after their chief spokesman Rohitha Bogollagama abruptly cancelled a press briefing scheduled following the first day's talks on Wednesday evening.

However, in Colombo, government spokesman Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said Thursday's session would decide "which way it will go."

"On a positive side, the head of our delegation and the LTTE shook hands before the meeting and I think its a good sign," Yapa said.

Sources close to the talks said the two sides stuck to their guns leaving little or no room for negotiations.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 17:12 IST