United States willing to facilitate peace
[TamilNet, Saturday, 06 February 1999, 19:57 GMT]
The US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Carl Inderfurth, had an informal discussion with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Opposition leader's office this morning from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. said diplomatic sources.
The violence and rigging at the Northwest provincial council had figured prominently in the talks UNP sources said this afternoon.
Mr.Wickremesinghe had presented the Assistant Secretary of State with evidence about the polls violence in the North-western province elections.
Mr. Carl Inderfurth met a few local and foreign journalists later this afternoon at the US Ambassador's residence in Colombo.
Sri Lanka's respected defence correspondent Iqbal Athas, Mr.Gamini Weerakon, the editor of the English daily the 'Island, and Mr.Rahul Sharma of the Reuters were among the invitees.
The discussions ranged from third party mediation to the US government's position providing military aid to Sri Lanka.
Mr.Inderfurth said that his government's designation of the Liberation Tigers as a terrorist organisation should not be in the way of finding a negotiated settlement to the conflict. He noted that the Tigers had expressed a willingness for negotiations in November (in Prabhaharan's Hero's day speech) and that the good offices of the US would be available for facilitation if requested.
The aspirations of the Tamil people should be considered in formulating a solution Mr.Inderfurth said. Assistant Secretary of State is officially in Sri Lanka for the opening of the US trade fair in Colombo. But western diplomatic sources said that he will discuss wider issues with the government.
The Sri Lankan government issued a stern warning this week to diplomatic missions in Colombo that they should not comment on the internal affairs of the country. The warning, according to foreign ministry officials, was aimed at the US embassy.