Sri Lanka delays talks but rules out war to end ethnic bloodshed

Oct 3, 2006 (AFP) – Peacebroker Norway struggled Tuesday to bring Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger rebels to the negotiating table and avert full-scale war as Colombo sought to delay any talks until at least the end of the month. The Sri Lankan government, which earlier had said it was ready for negotiations after a day’s notice, told Oslo’s peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer that talks could start on October 30 or November 10.

“These two dates are our preferences and we’ve conveyed this to Mr. Hanssen-Bauer,” said Palitha Kohona, head of the government’s Peace Secretariat.

“We will await a response from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam),” he said as Oslo’s top envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer held talks in the northern rebel-held town of Kilinochchi in a bid to get the two sides to open discussions.

There was no immediate explanation from Colombo about why it was now asking for almost a month to start discussions.

Sri Lanka’s top military commander, Air Chief Marshall Donald Perera, said the decades-old conflict must be resolved through dialogue but added there would be no let-up in military action to counter rebel attacks.

Sri Lanka’s key financial backers last month asked the parties to start talks in early Oct