Sri Lanka pushes Tamil autonomy as US warns against war

From left: Dr. Fernando Im, Senior Country Economist for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, The World Bank, Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister, Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. W A Wijewardana, Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Indralal de Silva, Former (Chair) of Demography, University of Colombo, Prof. Amala de Silva, Department of Economics, University of Colombo at the panel discussion on "Demographic Change in Sri Lanka" moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

COLOMBO, June 2, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president launched talks with opposition parties Friday to hammer out a plan to grant autonomy to separatist Tamil rebels as the United States warned against a return to full-scale war.

The meeting with major parties of the majority Sinhalese community was underway to agree a path to peace, a spokesman for the president said.

“The president (Mahinda Rajapakse) wants the all-party conference meeting today to come (up) with a consensus plan that could be discussed with the Tigers,” he said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Plan Implementation Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said at the opening of the talks that Rajapakse wanted the support of the opposition to push ahead with a political plan to end ethnic bloodshed.

Violence has escalated in Sri Lanka, where more than 600 people have been killed since December despite a 2002 ceasefire between Tamil Tiger rebels and the Colombo government and its troops.

“The main theme is to have a consensus on a final solution to the north-east issue,” Rambukwella said. “Towards that, he is seeking the support of all main opposition parties.”

Any move to devolve power to Tamils requires amendi