Monday, 10 November 2003  
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No risk to peace process, President tells BBC

COLOMBO, Sunday (AFP) -

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has denied that the peace process with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is at risk due to her takeover of three key government portfolios, in an interview broadcast yesterday by the BBC.

"I don't see how the peace process could be at risk unless I ordered the forces to go to war or something," the President said, answering the charge of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that her actions had put the Norwegian-led initiative in jeopardy.

In a televised address to the nation on Friday, she made it clear she intended to hold on to the three portfolios and would, from now on, closely monitor the peace process, believing it had endangered the nation's security.

She complained that she had not been asked to sign the accord in February last year between Wickremesinghe's government and the LTTE, an omission which she said made it invalid.

Despite this, she had, as the new defence minister, ordered the military to respect the truce, she said.

In the interview with the BBC's World Service Television, President Kumaratunga said she had been excluded from the peace process even though her assent was required for key decisions.

"Sometimes I was not consulted but as head of government I am part of the peace process and nothing in that peace process can become law without my being part of it," the President said. "So perhaps now one could work closer together."

Defending her takeover of defence, she said she had merely "assigned to myself defence powers which are exclusively assigned to the Sri Lanka president under the constitution".

Asked if she was optimistic about the future of the peace process, she questioned the sincerity of the LTTE, who on October 31 unveiled their first ever blueprint for a political settlement.

"I don't know how serious they (Tigers) are because I haven't spoken to them for some time.

"All we can know is (by) looking at written documents and their statements.

"I suppose they want peace but they want peace with a separate state. From their document that they have recently presented, that seems to be fairly evident."

The President also denied there was a political crisis in the country.

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