Norway in fresh bid to avert full-scale war in Sri Lanka

May 26, 2006 (AFP) – Norway’s top peace envoy held lengthy talks with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse Friday in a fresh bid to stop the island from drifting back to war, diplomats said. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the island’s Tamil separatist conflict since 1972. Oslo’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim arrived Friday morning and went directly to meet the president.

Talks lasted longer than scheduled, diplomats said.

“They had a long meeting, but I cannot comment on the contents of their discussions,” Norwegian embassy spokesman Erik Nurnberg said. “The minister is meeting with some religious leaders before he leaves for New Delhi today.”

The president’s office said the two sides had “extensive discussions on the current situation.”

The talks lasting more than two hours occurred against a backdrop of further violence.

At least four people were killed Friday in two separate incidents in the island’s east, security officials said.

Three men from a breakaway rebel faction were shot dead by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the district of Trincomalee while a government official was shot dead in neighbouring Batticaloa,