Sri Lanka denies agreeing to ‘unconditional’ talks

Sept 13, 2006 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan official denied on Wednesday the government had agreed to unconditional talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, and accused peace broker Norway of failing to consult with Colombo before making any announcement. Earlier peace talks aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed came to a halt in April 2003 when the Tigers walked out. Government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said he was “surprised” by the remarks of Norway’s International development minister Erik Solheim on Tuesday that the two parties have agreed to talks without conditions.

Solheim told a meeting of Sri Lanka’s aid donors in Brussels on Tuesday that the warring parties were ready for talks which could be arranged in the first week of October in Oslo.

“The government of Sri Lanka said it was ready for talks without any pre-conditions and the LTTE has said the same,” Solheim told AFP when contacted by telephone.

“We will have the talks in the first week of October in Oslo,” he said.

Rambukwella, who does not normally speak about the peace process on behalf of the government, accused Solheim of misleading the international community and the public.

“To the surprise of the government, Mr Solheim is reported to