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Bush, Sri Lankan PM Focus on Efforts to Build On Cease-Fire - 2002-07-24

President Bush met with the leader of Sri Lanka Wednesday to discuss efforts to end the island's long civil war.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe focused on diplomatic efforts to build on a cease-fire between ethnic Tamil rebels and a government dominated by the majority Sinhalese.

Rebels agreed to peace talks earlier this year and are negotiating for an interim administration in northeastern areas still under their control.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said continuing support from the United States, Europe, and India is essential for the peace process to move forward. But he said only Sri Lankans can make a peace that lasts. "We were finally able to sit down and sort ourselves out. I don't think anyone else can do it. The people themselves want peace," he said.

The Sri Lankan leader also wants a deal increasing trade and investment with the United States to help rebuild an economy hurt by 20 years of fighting.