Saturday, June 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No UN role in Lanka: Jaswant

SINGAPORE, June 2 (Reuters) — Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh today ruled out a role for the UN in war-torn Sri Lanka and reiterated that New Delhi would only get involved in the conflict there if asked by Colombo.

"I personally do not see a role for the United Nations as such," Mr Jaswant Singh said at a question-and-answer session after a speech on India and regional security in Singapore.

He said India was prepared to evacuate embattled Sri Lankan troops pinned down in the northern Jaffna peninsula but only at Colombo’s request.

“We cannot independently assume the role in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We have always said it’s best results if all aspirations of people in Sri Lanka are fully met,” he added.

But Mr Jaswant Singh, in Singapore on a three-day official visit, said India was seeking greater Commonwealth involvement to end the crisis in Fiji.

He said UN involvement in Sri Lanka had so far been restricted to humanitarian aid under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels are locked in battle in the northern Jaffna peninsula and the fighting has intensified after fresh offensives by the LTTE.

"What we are witnessing in Sri Lanka is a challenge to Sri Lankan integrity. India remains committed to the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka," he said.

"We cannot independently assume for ourselves a role in Sri Lanka that is not at the request of the Sri Lanka Government," Mr Jaswant Singh said, when asked if India would consider intervention.

Mr Jaswant Singh said India was in touch with the Norwegian special envoy who was trying to broker efforts to stop the ethnic bloodshed and had offered advice.

Unlike the hands-off stance on Sri Lanka, Mr Jaswant Singh advocated greater international involvement in the crisis in Fiji where the elected government of Mr Mahendra Chaudhry was overthrown in a coup last month.

He said the Commonwealth, of which Fiji and India were both members, could act under an action programme which discouraged the forceful unseating of democratically elected governments.


Shots fired in Fiji Parliament

SUVA, June 2 (AFP) — Gunshots were fired today inside Fiji Parliament, where the country’s Prime Minister and his government have been held since May 19, soldiers manning barricades outside the complex said.

The shooting came as coup leader George Speight held talks with military chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who declared martial law on Monday, in another part of town.

One man was rushed away from the Parliament building in an ambulance. Radio Fiji said he was a Speight supporter. Speight earlier said he expected the Pacific island nation’s two-week-old political crisis to be resolved and his hostages to be released by Monday.

Fiji’s powerful Great Council of Chiefs, a congress of traditional leaders, is to meet on Monday to hand down its decision on the stand-off between Speight and the new military rulers.

Speight said he would like to resolve the issue of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and about 35 members of his government still being held captive before then.

Asked if that meant the hostages would be released and the crisis defused by Monday, he said “yes”.

But he insisted today that Fiji would soon be forgiven for ousting Mr Chaudhry, the country’s first ethnic Indian premier, and within a couple of years nations again would be “buddy-buddy” with the new leadership.

TNS adds from New Delhi: The Indian delegation led by the Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr S.T. Devare on Friday reached Suva for making a first-hand assessment of the situation and ascertaining the facts.

Briefing newspersons, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Devare along with the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Mr C.P. Ravindranathan reached Suva on Friday evening. Mr Davare would meet the Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, Prof I.S. Chauhan, and other members of the diplomatic mission.

The Indian delegation would also meet other Indian nationals, including those working in Indian organisations like the State Bank of India and the LIC.

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