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Lanka's political rivals sign deal to push for peace

President Rajapaksa concluded talks with Oppn's Wickremesinghe to agree a common position on resolving the long-running conflict.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2006 12:18 IST

Sri Lanka's president will sign a deal with the main Opposition Monday in a bid to end the island's bloody ethnic conflict, his office said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa concluded talks Sunday night with opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to agree a common position on resolving the long-running conflict, which has claimed over 60,000 lives since 1972.

"The MoU (memorandum of understanding) will be signed on Monday at Temple Trees," Rajapaksa's office said in a statement Monday, referring to his official residence.

The president's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is a minority government and needs Opposition support to approve legislation or any power-sharing deals with the rebel Tamil Tigers.

The Opposition has in the past supported talks with rebels as well as devolution of power as a way to end the bloodshed, but Rajapaksa's Marxist coalition partner, the People's Liberation Front, or JVP, opposes any concessions to the Tigers.

The initiative came ahead of peace talks planned for this weekend between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) amid spiralling violence that has killed more than 2,300 people since December.

Wickremesinghe said last week that his United National Party (UNP) supported moves for a negotiated settlement with Tiger rebels, but had not decided on whether to accept cabinet positions offered by Rajapakse in an effort to seal the peace deal.

The JVP earlier this month abandoned plans to take cabinet positions in the government.

The parting of the ways with the Marxists has pushed the government closer to the main Opposition, which has more clout in parliament.

First Published: Oct 23, 2006 12:18 IST