|Monday, 22 April 2002|
by a special correspondent
Indicating that proposed talks between the government and the LTTE in Thailand would commence by the end of June, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister said that the peace process is moving ahead incredibly fast.
"At the moment we are more occupied with preparing the agenda for talks in the proper way on issues that are being agreed by both parties rather than rushing on it," the Deputy Minister told the Daily News in an exclusive interview on Saturday (20).
"One of the main features of this process is that it is moving incredibly fast, may be too fast," he stressed.
Mr. Helgesen had extensive talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran and lastly with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on Friday.
"There is no doubt that both parties are determined to move ahead as quickly as they can," said the Deputy Minister commending the leaders both in the North and the South for their commitment to a negotiated political settlement.
"It is impressive to see how the Prime Minister has shown great courage in shifting the total political picture and brining this process forward. It is also impressive to see how the President, although she has some differences, is supportive of the process," he said.
He was of the opinion that LTTE Supremo is now engaged in a process of transforming himself from a status of a guerilla leader to a democratic politician.
"What struck me during my meeting with Mr. Prabhakaran was how comfortable he was as a politician. I knew him as a guerilla leader or as a military commander. But I found him very relaxed in matters pertaining to politics.
"Certainly, the LTTE has to go a long way in transforming itself from a military outfit to a democratic political movement, but I think he is really determined to do that. Even his press conference, coming out and meeting the journalists. I think what matters is not the statements he made there, but the fact that he came out and acted as a politician, it is a very good sign," he said.
The deputy minister further said that the President during her meeting with him expressed some reservation over certain issues. "But she is totally committed to the process," he stressed.
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