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Prez' alliance wins support from nationalist group

Prez Kumaratunga's alliance won support from a nationalist group ahead of polls, a move that may boost her chances.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2004 12:03 IST

President Chandrika Kumaratunga's political alliance on Tuesday won support from a nationalist group ahead of April 2 parliamentary elections, a move that may boost her chances at the polls.

The Patriotic National Movement _ made up of several small political parties and Buddhist monks _ said it backed Kumaratunga's freedom alliance because of her strong opposition to concessions for Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The best thing for Sri Lanka ... is to have a strong government under the freedom alliance," Elle Gunwansa, a group spokesman, told reporters.

Kumaratunga is locked in a power struggle with her political rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that has threatened to derail efforts to end a 20-year civil war.

The president accuses the prime minister of jeopardizing the country's security by giving too many concessions to the rebels. Last month she dissolved Parliament, paving the way for elections nearly three years ahead of schedule.

To boost her chances in the polls, Kumaratunga's political party formed the United Peoples Freedom Alliance with the Marxist Peoples' Liberation Front. Before the 225-member Parliament was dissolved, the two parties had a combined 93 seats.

Though the Patriotic National Movement had no seats, the group could help influence others to support the president. One member is former national cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who has appeal in this cricket-mad tropical island.

Wickremesinghe and the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam rebels signed a truce in February 2002, bringing a halt to 19 years of fighting that had killed nearly 65,000 people.

Wickremesinghe had offered the rebels administrative authority in predominantly ethnic Tamil areas of the island for an interim period, in an effort to restart peace talks. The talks were suspended in April after the rebels raised their demands. "We understand there is a move to have a pro-LTT puppet government and we don't want that to happen," Gunwansa said in reference to Wickremesinghe's United National Front.

First Published: Mar 24, 2004 12:03 IST