05/30/2005, 00.00
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Government to share tsunami aid with rebels

Sri Lankan President made the announcement after meeting UN envoy Bill Clinton, who urged all parties to "seek peace with the rebels".

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga vowed "to share foreign aid with the rebel Tamil Tigers". Her statement came after she met UN tsunami relief work envoy Bill Clinton. Mr Clinton urged local politicians to seek a peace accord with the Tamil Tigers and support the island's political parties to support Mrs Kumaratunga's moves

"I would urge all political parties to look at it [the proposal] on its merits," Mr Clinton said.  "[The president] is eager to do it, but obviously she wants to talk to people in her coalition who are not for it and people in the opposition who should be for it."

"I strongly support the president's call for a joint mechanism because I do want to see reconstruction proceed and I like this country," Mr Clinton added. "I like to see it at peace and reconciled."

The former US president ruled out any role for himself in the peace process, although he said he would like to meet Tamil, Muslims and Buddhists in a neutral area where everyone can come.

The government's reassurance is bringing some hope to the residents of the areas under rebel control. Some of them were hard hit by the December 26 tsunami, which killed some 31,000 people in the country, displacing one million people.

However, many countries like the US and Japan have laws that prevent them from providing assistance to rebel groups.

The Norwegian-brokered peace talks between Tamil Tigers and the government are opposed by the People's Liberation Front, a Marxist party that supports the current Sri Lankan coalition government.

Mrs Kumaratunga pledged to international aid donors that she would strike the deal, and sharing aid would help move the stalled peace process forward.

The Tamil Tigers have accepted the peace talks, but which have been on hold since April 2003, and have held to the truce that went into effect in February 2002.

Mr Clinton's visit to Sri Lanka was part of a tour of the region that began on May 27 in India, continued in the Maldives on May 29 and is now in Aceh, one of the worst hit areas.

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