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President meets Secretary General:

UN reassures support for peace moves

from Manjula Fernando in New York

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN were willing to extend any assistance to the Sri Lankan Government in its efforts to take the peace process forward when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga met him at his office at the UN headquarters on Thursday.

"The UN is willing to support the Government's needs to push the peace process forward," he told President Kumaratunga appreciating her efforts and commitment to a peaceful solution to the 19-year-old ethnic strife.

President Kumaratunga briefed Annan on the current situation of the peace process and the ceasefire agreement adding that despite set backs, her Government was committed to resolve the conflict through dialogue with the LTTE.

While assuring that her Government will not in anyway push the country back to another war, the President said the fractional killings and ceasefire violations in the country by the LTTE could however lead to erode the confidence among people and her Government in the LTTE.

The Secretary General invited President Kumaratunga to attend the 60th United Nations General Assembly next year at which the member nations will review the five-year individual achievements towards fulfilling commitments set apart in the millennium declaration adopted on September 8, 2000.

The UNDP coordinates global and national efforts to reach the millennium goals. UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, in his capacity as chair of the UN Development Group has been asked by the Secretary General to be the coordinator of the Millennium Development Goals in the UN system.

The UNDP Administrator also called upon the President at the UN Headquarters on Thursday to discuss the progress of UN funded development projects including the reconstruction activities in the North and East.

President Kumaratunga called upon Annan following a closed door bi-lateral meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

She also met the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and discussions focused on boosting trade ties between the two countries with special emphasis to expand the market for Sri Lankan tea and the tourism industry. The Russian Minister has promised to send a delegation next month to pursue the two matters.

Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Ambassador Bernard Goonetillake, Secretary to the President W J S Karunaratne, Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat Jayantha Dhanapala and the Director General President's Media Unit Eric Fernando were also present.


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