NATIONAL

Keep India informed, Ranil tells Oslo

COLOMBO, DEC. 30. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, has asked Norway to keep India informed about the peace process that it has been asked to facilitate between his Government and the LTTE.

In a letter to his Norwegian counterpart, Mr. Kjell Magne Bondevik, which was released to the press today, Mr. Wickremesinghe has also asked that the Opposition People's Alliance be kept informed of the developments in the peace process.

The letter, a follow-up to a phone call by Mr. Wickremesinghe to the Norwegian Prime Minister a few days ago, confirms that the Sri Lankan Government wants the ``continued assistance'' of Oslo ``in a similar capacity to carry on the task embarked upon by the previous Sri Lankan Government''.

Reiterating his support for a bi-partisan approach to the peace talks, Mr. Wickremesinghe has asked Norway to keep a member of the Opposition appointed by the President and leader of the People's Alliance, Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, briefed in the same way that he was as leader of the Opposition.

``Similarly, it is understood that the Royal Norwegian Government will keep India and other relevant parties informed of the developments on a need to know basis,'' the letter says. Mr. Wickremesinghe's request is for the continuation of a practice followed by both the Norwegian and the Sri Lankan Governments over the last two years of keeping India in the picture with regard to the peace process.

Oslo's special envoy at the time, Mr. Erik Solheim, made it a point to meet the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka on every visit here. He also kept the Indian Ambassador in Norway informed of all the developments. India reiterated its support for Norwegian facilitation in the Sri Lankan peace process during Mr. Wickremesinghe's visit to New Delhi last week.

Mr. Wickremesinghe informed the Norwegian Government that the Minister of Industries and Constitutional Affairs, Mr. G.L. Peiris, and the Minister for Economic Reforms, Mr. Milinda Moragoda, would lead a committee that will function as the ``political focal point'' for the peace process.

The letter also mentions that an experienced diplomat will head a secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office that will provide the ``institutional structure to back up'' the peace process. A committee under the guidance of the Prime Minister will control ``public interface and the dissemination of information'' on the peace process, the letter states. Earlier, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Mr. Jan Petersen, described Mr. Wickremesinghe's phone call to Mr. Bondevik as a ``positive'' development, but said his Government wanted to ``sound out both sides'' before resuming its role.

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