Sri Lanka offers compromise to save peace bid

Apr.18 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Tuesday agreed to helicopter rides for Tiger rebels in a bid to clear the way for truce talks as peace broker Norway sent an envoy to stop the island sliding back to war. Colombo’s top official handling the peace process, Palitha Kohona, said they told Norway that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could charter a helicopter to transport their field commanders for a central committee meeting.

The Tigers said they were forced to abort a ferry ride because of “excessive interference” by the navy on Saturday.

They said that unless their commanders could travel from the island’s east to the north for consultations, they would not attend talks in Switzerland on April 24 aimed at salvaging the ceasefire.

Colombo had earlier ruled out airlifts for the Tigers, but appeared to climb down in the face of growing bomb attacks that have killed at least 64 people in the past 10 days.

“The government has pulled all stops and is bending over backwards to accommodate the LTTE and to make sure that they do not have an excuse not to go to Geneva,” Kohona told AFP.

Diplomatic sources said the offer of private helicopters had been made even earlier, but did not mate