Agence France Presse

Colombo, March 13:

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers accepted a draft proposal by peace broker Norway to work with Colombo on distributing tsunami relief despite a deadlock in talks to end decades of civil war, officials and rebels said today. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in talks with Norwegians in Oslo at the weekend agreed to a “joint mechanism” to handle millions of dollars in tsunami relief, according to comments from the group’s political chief SP Thamilselvan posted on the pro-rebel website. “The LTTE leadership has accepted a draft of a joint mechanism for tsunami aid delivery submitted to the LTTE by the Norwegian facilitators even while noting that there were some shortcomings,” Thamilselvan told the website.

“It is up to the Sri Lanka government to agree to the Norwegian draft.” Officials close to the peace process said the Colombo government was almost ready to give its approval for a joint tsunami relief effort despite pressure on President Chandrika Kumaratunga from her Marxist coalition partner not to accommodate the Tigers. Kumaratunga told a meeting on Friday that one party in her coalition government remained opposed to any plan that allows the Tigers to handle relief funds and supplies directly. “There is one party in the coalition that is not working with a sense of discipline,” Kumaratunga said in an apparent reference to the People’s Liberation Front, or JVP. The JVP, which has 39 seats in the 225-member parliament,

provides crucial support to Kumaratunga’s administration. It has threatened to pull out if Tigers are allowed to handle tsunami aid.

Diplomats said a “joint mechanism” was essential because several donor governments did not want to give aid directly to the LTTE because of legal and political implications. The LTTE is deemed a terrorist organisation by several countries including, India, Britain and the US. Japan, Sri Lanka’s largest donor of foreign aid, will not give direct aid to the Tigers, even for tsunami relief, because it only supplies aid to recognised governments.