Sri Lanka peace bid hits new snag

Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) – Norwegian peace brokers were Thursday struggling to get Sri Lanka’s warring parties to agree on a venue for talks, with Tiger rebels demanding Oslo and the government Geneva, diplomats said. “The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is going on the basis they want talks in Oslo because that was the venue suggested by the ‘co-chairs’,” a diplomat close to the peace effort said.

“The government’s preference is Geneva. This is the challenge for the peace envoy,” the diplomat said.

Sri Lanka’s key financial backers or ‘co-chairs’ — the US, the European Union, Japan and Norway — last month called on the two parties to open talks in early October and be ready for a progress review by the end of the month or risk losing support.

The quartet also asked the two sides to enter talks in Oslo and not to quibble over details.

But nationalist allies of the Sri Lankan government had opposed holding talks in Oslo.

They argue that Norway was biased towards the Tigers, a charge denied by Norwegian diplomats.

Sri Lanka’s top official coordinating with Norway, Palitha Kohona, said Colombo was willing to start talks on October 28 at any venue in Switzerland.

“The Norwegians wil