Tigers turn down direct talks with Sri Lanka president

May 23, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels Tuesday rejected a call by Buddhist and Christian clergy for a direct meet between the president and the guerrilla leader in a bid to end decades of ethnic bloodshed. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they told a delegation of priests that any meeting with President Mahinda Rajapakse and Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran would only be through peace broker Norway.

The suggestion for direct talks between Rajapakse and the LTTE’s Prabhakaran was made during a discussion Tuesday with the Tiger political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, the rebels said.

“While appreciating your concern for peace and harmony, we cannot by-pass (peace broker) Norway in establishing contacts with the government to initiate a dialogue with President Mahinda Rajapakse as suggested by the inter-religious group,” the LTTE quoted Thamilselvan as saying.

It said the delegation of Buddhist and Christian leaders told Thamilselvan that they met with the president a few days ago and he was keen to meet with Prabhakaran and discuss a political settlement to the island’s ethnic conflict.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella