V.S. Sambandan

Three Tamil women shot dead in Jaffna

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will receive three high-profile visitors soon as part of the continued international efforts to restart the peace process.

They are Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister for International Development, R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs, and the former chief negotiator of the Sinn Fein, Martin McGuinness.

Mr. Solheim is a key player in the peace process since the inception of the Norwegian facilitation in the late 1990s. The process remained stalled after the LTTE's unilateral pullout from talks in 2003.

Mr. Solheim will be here between January 23 and 26 and will "hold talks" with the Government and the LTTE, a statement by Oslo said.

In his pre-visit statement, Mr. Solheim said: "I am deeply concerned about the recent increase in violence in Sri Lanka.

In order to keep the violence from escalating further, it is urgent to get the two parties to sit down together to discuss how to ensure that the ceasefire agreement is observed and how the peace process can be advanced."

Mr. Burns' visit, according to the U.S. embassy, is part of his tour of the sub-continent. He will "discuss the current status of the peace process" with the Government, Mr. Solheim and others "to reiterate the strong U.S. desire to see all Sri Lankans work for peace," said the Department of State.

According to a report in the Daily Mirror, Mr. McGuinness will meet President Mahinda Rajapakse and the LTTE "to advise them that methods employed in the Irish peace process can be applied in Sri Lanka."

LTTE supporters

Three Tamil women, reportedly supporters of the LTTE, were shot dead in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Monday, the TamilNet Web site said.

While it blamed the killings on "army intelligence operatives", the army said it had "not received information" of the killings till Monday evening.

The women were identified as members of a family of LTTE supporters.

One of the victims, Bojan Renuka (30), played a lead role in a Tamil film produced by the film's division of the LTTE, the Web site said.

According to reports from the north, several families were reportedly told by the Tigers to move into LTTE-controlled areas.