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Norwegian Foreign Minister arrives next week for talks

Norway announced yesterday that its Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen, will visit Sri Lanka on May 10 and 11 to explore ways of bringing the peace process forward.

Mr. Petersen will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen. A press release issued by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Petersen will have meetings with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the LTTE.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry stated: "the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have in meetings with representatives of Norway expressed their desire to resume the peace talks. The parties have reiterated their commitment to the Ceasefire Agreement and their wish for Norway to continue with its role as the facilitator of the peace process.

The Presidential Secretariat in a press release stated that the Norwegian delegation comprising Erik Solheim, Ambassador Han Brattskar and Lisa Golden briefed Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on May 3 on their return from Killinochchi where they had conveyed to the LTTE, the results of their consultation with the President.

The talks had lasted more than two hours, the Presidential Secretariat said in a press release yesterday.

Thamilchelevam had indicated that the LTTE is fully prepared to commence talks with the Government at a time convenient to the Government.

He also reiterated their continued commitment to compliance with the Ceasefire Agreement. The Norwegian facilitators stated that the LTTE had no preconditions attached to the commencement of talks.

Thamilchelvam had appreciated the messages received from the President through the Norwegian facilitators. The facilitators described their consultation with the LTTE as constructive. They remain optimistic about further progress.

Meanwhile, a TamilNet report yesterday said the Liberation Tigers' theoretician and political strategist Anton Balasingham will travel to Vanni this week to meet the movement's leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran to map out its strategy for future peace talks, TamilNet learns, TamilNet report stated yesterday quoting LTTE source.

Balasingham will meet Prabhakaran and other senior LTTE officials on the weekend, ahead of a visit to Killinochchi next week by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, LTTE sources told TamilNet.

Balasingham and Prabhakaran will meet Petersen on Monday to discuss the peace process and related matters," the source said without giving details. Balasingham will leave London, where he resides on Thursday for Colombo. He will be accompanied by his wife Adele, the source said.

It is almost exactly a year since Balasingham last visited the Vanni. He was taken ill last May and had to return for urgent treatment. He was subsequently advised by his doctors to take extensive rest. He resumed duties late last year.

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