Vol. 5 Num 317 Mon. April 18, 2005  

Norway in new peace drive in Lanka

Norwegian special envoy Erik Solheim arrived here yesterday for a fresh attempt to revive Sri Lanka's deadlocked peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, an official said, as violence escalated in the island's troubled east.

Solheim headed to the northwestern town of Puttalam shortly after his arrival for talks with Muslim refugees, a Norwegian embassy official said. He would travel to the troubled eastern province on Tuesday.

The embassy said Solheim would also focus on a proposed "joint mechanism" between the Colombo government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on handling tsunami relief aid.

Violence has escalated in the island's east in the past week, with a senior government official being gunned down by suspected Tiger rebels Friday night in the latest incident.

The government issued a statement Sunday condemning the killing and adding that the state would step up security for all its employees.

Scandinavians monitoring a truce between the government and the Tigers have cautioned that the stepped up violence in the eastern province would undermine the ceasefire that has been in place since February 23, 2002.

In other violence Friday, at least five members of a rival faction were gunned down by Tiger rebels, the defence ministry said.