Sri Lanka peace effort hits fresh snags

Oct 4, 2006 (AFP) – A renewed Norwegian bid to coax Sri Lanka’s government and Tamil Tiger rebels back to the negotiating table ran into fresh difficulties Wednesday amid disputes over the timing and venue for talks. Oslo’s special peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer was in fresh talks with Sri Lankan officials to try to set a date, a day after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) failed to commit itself to any timing for negotiations.

“No one expected this process to be easy,” said a diplomat close to the peace effort, aimed at saving a tattered 2002 truce and ending a spiral of violence which has claimed more than 1,500 lives since December.

Hundreds of nationalists opposed to Oslo’s role as peace broker also took to the streets of the capital, prompting police to seal off roads leading to the Norwegian embassy, police said.

“We have taken extra security precautions to ensure that the demonstrators won’t get near the embassy to cause any trouble,” a police official said, as Colombo suffered added traffic chaos due to stepped-up checks on vehicles.

In the north of the island, government jets kept up their attacks against suspected Tamil Tiger targets, a day after similar raids coincided with a visit