Sri Lanka rivals secure deal to push for peace

Oct 23, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ruling party and the opposition agreed Monday to work together towards a political settlement to the island’s bloody ethnic fighting which has claimed more than 60,000 lives. The Tigers warned at the weekend they would unleash their bloody campaign island-wide if violence against Tamil areas continued, while the government blamed the rebels for more attacks overnight, including the shooting of a Hindu priest. President Mahinda Rajapakse said Monday’s agreement was a major boost to the island’s efforts to end the Tamil separatist conflict and could provide a solid backdrop for weekend negotiations with Tiger rebels in Geneva.

“What we have today is a significant political development that has placed the country closer to peace than at any other time,” he told AFP after his Sri Lanka Freedom Party signed a deal with the main opposition.

Tamil Tiger rebels had previously argued that the government could not get a two-thirds parliamentary majority to deliver on constitutional reforms that would devolve power and put an end to the bloodshed.

The president’s party forms a minority government and needs opposition support to approve legislation on any power-sharing deals wi