Collapse of Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers talks to protect truce observers

OSLO, June 8, 2006 (AFP) – Norwegian officials meeting Sri Lanka government representatives and Tamil Tigers rebels said on Thursday the talks broke down when they failed to orchestrate a face-to-face encounter between the two sides. Peacebroker Norway called the two-day talks amid fears for the safety of the 60-member Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which has already ordered flak jackets and hard hats for its staff.

Both parties arrived at a hotel outside Oslo for the discussions on improving security for the Nordic peacekeepers and began communicating with each other via their Norwegian hosts, the head of information at the ministry of international development told AFP.

But then Norwegian officials failed to bring about a suggested a face-to-face encounter, official Espen Gullikstad said.

“There were separate negotiations between the facilitator and each party to see if one could find grounds for a meeting between the two sides. But this failed,” Gullikstad said.

Earlier, the government in Colombo alleged the Tamil Tigers had refused to meet face-to-face with the Sri Lankan delegation.

The meeting was to have been their first direct encounter since talks in Geneva in February aimed at strengthening a 2002