Sri Lanka president open to ‘negotiated’ solution to conflict

NEW DELHI, Oct 13, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse on Saturday said Colombo remained open to a “negotiated and sustainable” solution to the island’s escalating ethnic conflict. Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the eruption of the decades-old Tamil separatist insurgency which has grown deadlier since the collapse of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in late 2005.

“While my government remains determined to fight terrorism, we are equally committed to seeking a negotiated and sustainable solution to the conflict,” Rajapakske told a media conference in the Indian capital New Delhi.

“If those who carry arms against the state are willing to enter a process of genuine negotiation towards a peaceful and democratic solution, the government and the people will reciprocate,” said Rajapakse.

“I don’t believe in a military solution. I want a political solution,” said Rajapakse, who was on a two-day visit to India due to end late on Saturday.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), fighting for a separate state for minority Tamils since 1972.

In seeking peace Colombo was looking for “understanding and assistance