Tsunami aid deal with LTTE to be limited to one year

Associated Press

Colombo, May 5:

A joint group to be formed by the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to distribute foreign aid to tsunami victims will be limited to one year, officials said today.

The announcement came ahead of a key meeting between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her main coalition partner, which has threatened to withdraw from the government if such a body is formed. The areas hit hardest

by the December tsunami were in the country’s northeast, some of which is controlled by the Tamil Tigers.

The Tigers have repeatedly demanded access to some of the $2 billion in tsunami aid promised to Sri Lanka. But most international donors are reluctant to give funds directly to the rebels, which are considered terrorists by India, Britain and the US.

The group will operate for one year, senior officials said on condition of anonymity, after which an extension could take place if both parties agree. It would deliver foreign aid to tsunami-affected areas two kilometres inland from the coastline in six districts in the north and east, they said. President Kumaratunga is to meet tomorrow with the Marxist People’s Liberation Front, in a last-ditch effort to secure their support for the joint group, the officials said.

The Marxist party says the group would help the rebels attain their goal of a separate state, and has threatened to withdraw from the government.