Lanka Muslims withdraw ultimatum

Associated Press

Colombo, June 28:

An Islamic party has withdrawn an ultimatum to the government that it scrap a tsunami aid-sharing deal with Tamil Tiger rebels, but demanded the pact be revised to better ensure fair treatment for Muslims, officials said. The National Unity Alliance had given the government today’s deadline to abandon the deal - saying it marginalises Muslims - or face losing the group’s two lawmakers. “We will wait and see ... We have proposed some amendments to the document, and the president has promised to look into them,” said Segu Isadeen, deputy minister of media, after crisis talks with President Kumaratunga. If the proposals are not considered and the agreement hurts the Muslim community, “then we will definitely quit,” he said.

The pact paves the way for the government and rebels to form a joint panel to share $3 billion in foreign tsunami aid and has been widely praised as a prelude to resuming stalled peace talks. “We expressed our strong disappointment at the Muslims not being recognised as a separate political entity in the agreement,” Isadeen said. Isadeen said they also want the location of a regional aid-distribution committee changed from the rebel-held northern stronghold of Kilinochchi. Kumaratunga’s office said they had proposed ways to resolve the issues causing their community apprehension.