Friday, September 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India plays down LTTE stand on autonomy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 19
In an apparent bid to play down the LTTE’s willingness to accept “autonomy and self-governance” in northern areas of Sri Lanka, India today expressed satisfaction over the conclusion of the first round of peace talks between the Tamil militant outfit and the island nation government.

Talking to newspersons here, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said “we have no comment as the statement of (LTTE Chief Negotiator) Anton S Balasingham had come only in response to a question” at the end of the first round of peace negotiations at Sattahip in Thailand yesterday.

Official sources, meanwhile, pointed out that this was not the first time that the LTTE had made such a statement. “ Mr Balasingham has made similar statements in the past also...but the LTTE has not said that it has given up the demand for a separate state”.

The sources said India was committed to a peaceful resolution of the ethnic crisis in the island nation to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. “We are committed to the peace process. We hope the narrowing of differences will lead to an amicable solution and bring to an end the terrible and tragic events in Sri Lanka, which have claimed so many innocent lives”, they added.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson said it would be premature to comment on the statement being made by the LTTE. Constitutional issues did not appear to have been discussed at the peace talks so far, she added.

The spokesperson said, “We want the peace process to proceed well ... every responsible member of the international community wants to see reconciliation.”

Asked if any request had been made on behalf of Mr Balasingham to travel to the rebel-controlled areas in the island nation via India, she said, “I have absolutely no information on that subject.”

The spokesperson said Mr Eric Solheim, Special Envoy of the Norwegian Foreign Minister, would visit New Delhi tomorrow to hold talks on the Sri Lankan peace process. In response to another question, the spokesperson welcomed Iraq’s decision to allow the return of the UN weapons inspectors to that country without conditions.

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