Norwegian government team meets Opposition leader

[TamilNet, Monday, 21 October 2002, 16:51 GMT]
The Norwegian government delegation Monday morning held wide ranging discussions with the Leader of the Opposition Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse regarding the second round of peace talks between the United National Front (UNF) government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which is scheduled to commence on October 31 at Sattahip in Thailand. In the afternoon the Norwegian team met with the leader of government's peace delegation, Professor G.L. Peiris, ruling party sources said.

The Norwegian team headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vidar Helgessen comprised Special Envoy Mr. Erik Solheim and four others who arrived in Colombo Sunday morning to prepare groundwork for the second round talks. Norwegian ambassador in Sri Lanka Mr.Jon Westborg and his second secretary Mr. Thomas Strangeland also participated in the talks held Monday morning with the Leader of the Opposition. Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse was given a detailed account of the first round of talks held between the delegations of the UNF government and the LTTE last month in Thailand.

The Leader of the Opposition is reported to have raised the issues related to the recent incidents in the east and told the delegation the apprehensions expressed by Sinhalese and Muslim communities there, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) sources said.

Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vidar Helgessen is due to meet Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe Monday night over dinner at Temple Trees. Ministers Milinda Morogoda, Tilak Marapone and G.L.Peiris and Peace Secretariat Secretary General Bernard Gunatilake are also expected to participate in the discussion, government sources said.

Meanwhile Norwegian embassy sources said the protest demonstration held by supporters of the Sinhala nationalist Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Monday when Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Vidar Helgessen visited Hambantota district would not deter their facilitator role.

The JVP supporters carried placards and shouted slogans when the Norwegian team was on its way to Kataragama from Hambantota after seeing severe drought-hit district. Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Mr.Helgessen and his members held discussions with ministers and ruling party parliamentarians about the urgent needs of the suffering people.


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