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Lankan Prez admits contacts with Tigers

Acknowledging that her party was in contact with the LTTE, Kumaratunga said that she has not reciprocated overtures by the LTTE's renegade faction.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2004 12:30 IST

Acknowledging that her party was in contact with Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, however, said on Friday that she has not reciprocated overtures by the LTTE's renegade faction.

The President said the leader of the breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) V Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, had made attempts to contact her party but that she had not reciprocated.

She said her immediate reaction to the split in the LTTE on March 3 was that it could lead to internecine war between the two sides.

But in the longer term, the rebel organisation would be weakened by the defection of its most powerful military leader Karuna, Kumaratunga told BBC in an interview.

She also said there had been various contacts between her party and the mainstream Tiger leadership, but she refused to give details.

Kumaratunga said that after elections to be held on April 2, the government of Sri Lanka would have to deal with the accepted head of the rebel movement, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

But she said the Government would also have to find ways and means of dealing with the renegade commander Karuna.

She said various attempts had been made by Karuna to contact her, but "she said she did not normally like underhand dealings," BBC reported.

The President said the leader of the breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) V Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, had made attempts to contact her party, but that she had not reciprocated.

She said her immediate reaction to the split in the LTTE on March 3 was that it could lead to internecine war between the two sides.

But in the longer term, the rebel organisation would be weakened by the defection of its most powerful military leader Karuna, Kumaratunga told BBC in an interview.

She also said there had been various contacts between her party and the mainstream Tiger leadership, but she refused to give details.

Kumaratunga said that after elections to be held on April 2, the Government of Sri Lanka would have to deal with the accepted head of the rebel movement, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

But she said the Government would also have to find ways and means of dealing with the renegade commander Karuna.

Kumaratunga's remarks came as the LTTE's London-based chief peace negotiator and political ideologue, Anton Balasingham, said that Karuna was acting against the interests of minority Tamils and warned against anyone capitalising on their split.

"He has established clandestine contacts with the (majority) Sinhala military hierarchy and with chauvinistic political forces...," Balasingham told the pro-rebel 'Tamil Guardian' newspaper published in London.

"We should let it be known to his contacts that they will cause irreparable damage to the peace process if they exploit Karuna's dissent."

If her party won the elections in April, Kumaratunga said they would continue negotiations her arch political rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe started with the Tigers, "but in a more professional way."

She said he had run the peace process with what she called a small group of friends and buddies in a secretive 'hole in the corner' manner.

In November, the President took over the running of the defence ministry saying the Prime Minister had jeopardised national security.

Asked what she had done since then to protect security, Kumaratunga said the Finance Minister had blocked funds preventing her from doing more and her only option would have been to sack him.

"She said that she had stopped short of that because she was unwilling to act like a mad lunatic taking over every ministry," BBC said.

First Published: Mar 20, 2004 12:30 IST