B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake is travelling to New Delhi on January 27 for talks with the Indian leadership. The situation in the island nation and bilateral issues will be the focus of his interaction.

Official sources said the newly appointed Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona will accompany Mr. Wickremanayake among others. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, overruling objections raised by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, appointed Dr. Kohona, an outsider to the Sri Lanka Foreign Office and Secretary-General of the Peace Secretariat.

Differences have cropped up in recent weeks between Mr. Samaraweera and Mr. Rajapaksa on a number of issues, including the decision of Mr. Rajapaksa to induct defectors from the Opposition United National Party (UNP) into the Government. A section of the local media has reported that Mr. Samaraweera has communicated to Mr. Rajapaksa that he will be compelled to chalk out his `political path' if the President went ahead with appointment of UNP dissidents as Ministers.

Mr. Wickremanayake is likely to meet among others Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and make a courtesy call on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

He is expected to brief the Indian leadership about the recent successes of the Sri Lanka military against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the east and the steps being taken to expedite resolution of the ethnic conflict.