Norway in talks to save Sri Lanka from full-scale war, Muslims flee

Aug 4, 2006 (AFP) – Norway launched high-level talks Friday in a bid to pull Sri Lanka back from all-out war as thousands of Muslims fled the bloodiest fighting in four years that has claimed nearly 170 lives. Peace broker Oslo sent special envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer who immediately went in for talks with Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, officials said.

Details of the discussions were not immediately known but diplomats close to the peace process said the thrust of the discussions was to save the collapsing ceasefire which Oslo arranged and put in place in February 2002.

“The latest talks have become critically important for Sri Lanka,” a diplomat said. “The peace process is facing its biggest ever challenge.”

Hanssen-Bauer was due to travel to the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi on Saturday and spend a few days talking with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leadership about salvaging what is left of the 2002 truce.

“The envoy will spend the weekend in Kilinochchi talking to the LTTE leadership,” said LTTE spokesman Velayadun Dayani. “He will talk about the peace process and the war-like situation.”

International concern was led by UN S