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Development mechanism proposed for North-East

by Ranil Wijayapala

The government's proposals focusing on a mechanism to undertake development, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North-East has been handed over to Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim to be conveyed to the LTTE, official sources told the Daily News yesterday.

Solheim is scheduled to hand over these proposals to the LTTE after arranging an appointment with the LTTE on Wednesday or Thursday, sources added.

Solheim's scheduled visit to Kilinochchi did not take place as scheduled yesterday and is due to take place today or tomorrow, diplomatic sources said.

Commenting on the government's proposals for the LTTE, an official close to the peace process told the Daily News that the government's proposals are not focused on offering an interim administration as demanded by the LTTE last week as a pre-requisite for their participation at the Tokyo donor conference.

"The proposals basically focus on a mechanism to undertake development, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North East," the official added.

An LTTE spokesman told the Daily News that they were awaiting a response from the government.

"Solheim was due to arrive in Kilinochchi with the government response but his visit was cancelled at the last moment due to reasons unknown to us," an LTTE spokesman added.

However, there was no confirmation about a fresh appointment given to Solheim by last evening.

Diplomatic sources also said that Solheim is also due to meet LTTE Chief Negotiator Dr. Anton Balasingham in London on his way back to Oslo after completing his mission in Sri Lanka.

The Norwegian Special Envoy's attempt to revive the stalled peace process this week has been seen as the latest attempt by the Norwegians to get the LTTE back on the peace talks prior to the Tokyo Donor conference fixed for June 9 and 10. The Japanese Government has announced that the scheduled donor conference will go ahead as scheduled with or without LTTE participation.

Balasingham in a letter sent to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe through Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen has conveyed their stance over the participation in the Tokyo donor conference. LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Thamil Selvan addressing a press conference in Kilinochchi last week also reiterated the need for an interim administration outside the Constitution for the LTTE to be practically involved in handling funds allocated for North-East development.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported from Tokyo that the Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik said the government side should show flexibility in response to the LTTE's request to set up an interim administration.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have proposed that such an authority be set up in areas they control and are refusing to attend a donors' conference scheduled in Tokyo next month. "I have heard the President's statement but it is the government that is leading the negotiation process...so I hope they will move forward," Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik told Reuters after giving a speech in Tokyo.

Asked if the government should be more flexible on the request for an interim authority, he said: "I hope so, yes."

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