Sri Lanka welcomes peace moves as president wins support with defections

Jan. 25 (LBO) ? Sri Lanka Wednesday welcomed moves to restart peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels next month as two opposition lawmakers defected to strengthen President Mahinda Rajapakse?s government. Jan. 25 (LBO) ? Sri Lanka Wednesday welcomed moves to restart peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels next month as two opposition lawmakers defected to strengthen President Mahinda Rajapakse?s government.

Two parliamentarians ? Mahinda Samarasinghe and Keheliya Rambukwella ? from the main opposition United National Party (UNP) crossed over and were rewarded with portfolios in Rajapakse’s People’s Alliance government.

?They crossed over to support the president?s national programmes,? Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told reporters.

Samarasinghe, who was earlier the Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament, was sworn in as minister for Disaster Preparedness and Human Rights, with cabinet ranking.

Rambukwella took oaths as minister for policy and plan implementation ? a non-cabinet portfolio.

The newcomers help Rajapakse ease dependency on his Marxist ally, the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) who currently control 39 seats in the 225-member parliament.

Rajapakse?s minority gover