Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers talks to protect truce observers break down

OSLO, June 8, 2006 (AFP) – Norwegian officials meeting with Sri Lanka government representatives and Tamil Tigers rebels said on Thursday talks broke down when they failed to bring about a face-to-face encounter between the two sides.

Peace broker Norway called the two-day talks amid fears for the safety of the 60-member Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which has already ordered flak jackets and hard hats for its staff.

Both parties arrived at a hotel outside Oslo for talks designed to help improve the security for the Nordic peacekeepers, and began to communicate with each other via their Norwegian hosts, Espen Gullikstad, head of information at the Ministry of International Development, told AFP.

But then Norwegian officials failed to bring about a suggested a face-to-face encounter, he said.

“There were separate negotiations between the facilitator and each party to see if one could find grounds for a meeting between the two sides. But this failed,” Gullikstad said.

Earlier, the government in Colombo claimed that the Tamil Tigers had refused to meet face-to-face with the Sri Lankan delegation.

The meeting was to have been their first direct encounter since a February meeting in Geneva aimed