India's stand hailed

KILINOCHCHI Nov. 1. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) today said it welcomed India's stand on the peace process as outlined in the joint statement issued after last month's meeting between the Sri Lankan Prime Minster, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but maintained that the "Tamil people were concerned'' over reports about a defence pact between the two countries.

"We welcome it,'' the LTTE's political wing leader, S.P. Tamilchelvan, told The Hindu, referring to India's position on the peace process. "India's enunciation of its policy and the show of support for the peace process has come as a boost to the Tamil people in their efforts to secure their political rights,'' he said.

Asked about the Indian emphasis that a solution should be "consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for individual rights'', he said "in the northeast, all minorities will certainly have all human rights and individual freedom. We have no difference of view on that''.

While the LTTE was "not concerned'' about the economic agreements reached between the two countries, it was "unaware'' about the details of the move towards a defence cooperation agreement, reported in the media. "However, among the Tamil people, there is confusion and suspicion. As far as we are concerned, without an official communication, we will not comment about it.''

On the lag in the peace process since the LTTE's unilateral pullout in April, he said: "the hurdles during the last one-and-a-half years pushed us to withdrawing temporarily from the talks. We are optimistic that the Government will understand the situation and is prepared to lay the ground for an interim administration''.

About the relationship between the civilian administration and the Sri Lankan military, Mr. Tamilchelvan, who was earlier the LTTE's Jaffna military commander, said: "Be it the Sri Lanka Army or the LTTE Army, it will be appropriate to talk about these defence-related issues when we negotiate a final settlement. Now we want an interim administration as a relief for our people. So we have postponed that issue''.

Asked how much his organisation was hopeful of the Government accepting the proposals, he said: "we are confident. As it was the Government, which first talked about an interim administration in its election manifesto, we are optimistic that it will take the necessary steps. As for a legislative structure, he said: "it will be an independent body. We will talk about it later''.

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