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Sri Lanka to Receive Over $4.5 Billion in Aid - 2003-06-10

Sri Lanka has received a show of support from international donors at an aid conference in Tokyo. They have pledged more than $4.5 billion to help rebuild the South Asian nation after two decades of civil war. Delegates at a Tokyo conference on rebuilding Sri Lanka say the money pledged is a vote of confidence in the future of the poor Indian Ocean country.

But the $4.5 billion offered by Japan, the United States, the European Union and other nations and international groups has conditions attached. The donors want clear progress in the stalled peace talks between the Colombo government and the Tamil Tiger rebels, including compliance with a ceasefire signed last year.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Tuesday that Sri Lanka should repay the donors by using the money well. "The price of our faith in you is your progress toward peace," he said. "We expect you to disperse this assistance fairly and equitably, with transparency and accountability and above all respect to human rights."

Delegates at the conference issued a statement asking that the Tamil Tigers reopen peace talks immediately. The rebels, who fought for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, walked out of the talks in April, blaming a lack of progress after six rounds of negotiations. They also boycotted the Tokyo conference.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday offered the rebels a "significant role" in the rebuilding process. He said his government would consider holding a referendum on constitutional changes that could help resolve the 20-year conflict.

Norway, which brokered the peace talks, is hopeful for progress, which could inspire a peaceful end to other conflicts. "I think Sri Lanka can be a fantastic example that other countries can aspire to emulate," said Olav Kjorven, Norway's deputy minister of international development. "What we are seeing here are two parties that have taken courageous steps toward compromise, toward peace, and the result we see here is the international community supports the process with a very large amount of money and political support and moral support."

The aid, which is well above the $3 billion that had been expected, will be handed out over four years to rebuild roads, schools and other infrastructure.

The funds equal the amount pledged to rebuild post-war Afghanistan last year. However, the Afghan government has complained it has only received a fraction of the funds offered.