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International Donors Pledge $2 Billion in Aid to Sri Lanka - 2003-06-09


International aid donors meeting in Tokyo have so far offered more than $2 billion to help rebuild Sri Lanka after two decades of civil war. The money is being pledged even though the peace process has been thrown into question after the Tamil Tiger rebels pulled out of on-going negotiations.

Host nation Japan opened the two-day gathering on reconstructing war-torn Sri Lanka by pledging $1 billion over the next three years. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stressed this money needs to be spent wisely.

He says the international community must devise detailed plans to support the reconstruction effort. He adds that this will provide a model for resolving ethnic conflicts and terrorism elsewhere in the world and provide hope to suffering people everywhere.

But Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi warned the assistance is contingent upon progress in the Sri Lankan peace process.

Tamil Tiger rebels and the Colombo government signed a cease-fire agreement some 16 months ago and have met six times since then. But the rebels pulled out of talks last month demanding they be able to set-up an interim government in Tamil-dominated areas in the northeast to control reconstruction aid and help their impoverished people - while other issues are being negotiated.

The rebels are boycotting the donors' meeting to show their dismay at the lack of progress.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinhe tried to revive the peace process Monday, saying in Tokyo that an interim administration would be set up. He also promised to introduce constitutional reforms to pave the wave for a lasting peace settlement of the civil war that has taken 65,000 lives and displaced more than a 1.5 million others.

After Japan made its $1 billion pledge Monday, the Asian Development Bank matched the offer. The European Union committed $290 million and the United States said it would provide $54 million in aid. More funds are expected to be offered Tuesday at the close of the meeting, which includes representatives from 47 nations and 20 financial institutions.

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