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Sunday, 24 March 2002  
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Peace process gathers momentum

by S. Selvakumar

The peace process to solve the country's ethnic problem will gather momentum from this week with the arrival of Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim and LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham.

Mr. Solheim is due in Colombo today and Mr. Balasingham and his wife Adele were expected to fly to Male, capital of Maldives, yesterday. Mr. Solheim and Mr. Balasingham will meet for talks in Kilinochchi tomorrow.

After tomorrow's preliminary round of talks, Mr. Balasingham and Mr. Solheim accompanied by Norwegian Ambassador John Westborg and the head of the Norwegian monitoring mission Major General Trond Furuhovde will have further talks with LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran in Vanni. These talks will be held during the course of this week, political and diplomatic sources said.

The Vanni talks will be centered on working out the modalities for peace talks proper expected to be held most probably in the Maldives, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Kilinochchi-Jaffna A-9 highway will be re-opened today but the public will not be permitted to use it at least for another fortnight. This is to facilitate the removal of land mines extensively buried in the Muhamalai area between a 400- metere no man's extent separating the armed forces and LTTE cadres.

At the same time authorities were busy yesterday shifting the military bunkers and other installations from the Eluthumattuwal area. However, temporary checkpoints will be established before the free movement of people are permitted.

At a special conference presided by the Jaffna District Secretary K. Shanmuganathan on Friday, representatives of the armed forces, Road Development Authority and relief providing organisations participated. At this meeting, several decisions were taken vis a vis the free movement of people and vehicles with the minimum of delay. After the meeting all participants with the District Secretary visited Muhamalai area and inspected the work involving the reopening of the A-9 highway.

TULF sources said yesterday that they were satisfied with the work now being undertaken to reopen the highway but they were keen to have the peace talks proper between the Government and the LTTE in India. "We hope to send a TULF delegation to India within the next few days to request New Delhi to allow permission for the talks to be held there," a TULF source said.

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