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LTTE refuses to disarm before political solution is found
January 10, 2003 01:48 IST
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on Thursday rejected the call to disarm even as it wrapped up negotiations with the Sri Lankan government in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, without any agreement on key military issues.
The two sides, however, pledged to speed up resettlement of displaced people in areas outside high-security zones occupied by the army.
"It will be suicidal to disarm at this stage," the LTTE's chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, said after the four-day talks. "It is the bargaining power of our people. We have to bargain from a position of strength."
He said the outfit will not disarm till a political solution is reached to end the 20-year-old ethnic conflict. He, however, said that did not mean the LTTE would take recourse to violence. "The peace process is going on well without difficulties. Our forces are confined to the barracks. They are not a threat to anyone."
Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Wednesday had asked the rebel group to disband its suicide squad, the Black Tigers, to prove its sincerity. The LTTE had pulled out of a key subcommittee on de-escalation during negotiations last Tuesday, upset by demands by the army that it disarm before the soldiers withdraw from high-security zones.
"The progress we have achieved is very substantial," the government's chief negotiator, G L Peiris, said. "The one disagreement we had pales into insignificance when you consider what we were able to achieve."
In a joint statement issued after the talks, the government and the rebels said human rights constitute an important element of the final declaration. Lieutenant General (retd) Satish Nambiar of India will review the issue of resettlement for the Sri Lankan government urgently.
A road map agreed upon by the two sides has set up four tasks -- identifying available resources by January 20, a report on the plan to release premises occupied by security forces by January 31, a physical assessment by February 7, and project recommendation by February 14.
Resettlement of displaced persons will take place as the security forces release them, the statement said, adding that a reconstruction fund of international aid will be set up with the World Bank as its custodian.
It noted that the peace process is about overcoming complex disagreements through political dialogue rather than violence. The fifth round of peace talks will be held next month at the same venue. The two sides have been observing a Norway-brokered ceasefire since last February.
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