Condoleezza Rice urges Sri Lanka to push ahead with peace talks

NEW YORK, Sept 23, 2006 (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged her Sri Lankan counterpart here Saturday to make a concerted effort in planned peace talks with rebels from the country’s Tamil minority, a senior US official said. Meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaweera on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Rice voiced strong support for Norwegian-mediated efforts to halt a resurgence in fighting between government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“She urged the government to engage in a focused, concerted way with the Norwegians as they try to start another round of negotiations with the LTTE,” the senior official said on condition he not be identified.

The warring parties agreed last week in Brussels to hold face-to-face talks early next month in Oslo in a bid to salvage a fragile truce in place since February 2002.

A flare-up in tit-for-tat violence over the past 10 months has left more than 1,500 people and left the truced accord in tatters.

Rebels among the Hindu Tamil minority have waged a drawn-out insurgency for a separate ethnic homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka, a majority Sinhalese Buddhist nation.
More than 60,000 people have died since the re