Govt-opposition deal in Sri Lanka to end

Jan 16, 2007 (AFP) – A landmark deal between Sri Lanka’s ruling party and the main opposition to bring a political solution to the island’s ethnic conflict collapsed Tuesday as fighting escalated, officials said. Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met President Mahinda Rajapakse and urged him not to bring opposition lawmakers into the cabinet, a move the party has said would wreck the deal, but the request was turned down, a top official source said.

“The president made it clear that he was not fishing, but the opposition MPs were stalking him and were ready to cross over en masse,” said the source close to Tuesday’s talks at the presidential secretariat.

Rajapakse’s leftist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the right-wing United National Party (UNP) in October agreed to work together to hammer out a political solution to the long-running Tamil separatist conflict.

UNP spokesman Jayalath Jayawardena told AFP the October deal would be formally annulled if the government accepted any more defectors from the opposition to the cabinet.

“From the minute the cross-overs are accepted to the cabinet, our memorandum of understanding will cease to exist,” Jayawardena said, adding that it would be a further blow to