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International Donors Warn Sri Lankan Government About Disrupting Peace Efforts

The United States and two other international donors have criticized Sri Lanka's coalition government, after one of its partners made statements the donors say could disrupt efforts to restart peace talks with separatist rebels.

The statement released by the international donors came after the People's Liberation Front, or JVP, repeatedly criticized the role Norway has played in mediating Sri Lanka's peace process.

Representatives from the United States, Japan and the Netherlands, whose ambassador represents the European Union, met with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga late Tuesday.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip Frayne says the group recommended that Ms. Kumaratunga ask the JVP to stop its criticism of Norway.

"We think Norway has been playing a very positive role in trying to get the sides to the table for talks. And we saw no reason why a coalition party should be criticizing that role," he said.

Ms. Kumaratunga formed a coalition government in April after her party failed to win a majority in parliamentary elections. The small, Marxist-oriented JVP strongly opposes the peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Norway has facilitated the peace process since February 2002 - when it brokered a cease-fire between the two sides. But talks have been stalled for more than 18 months.

The impasse is centered on the rebel's demand for virtual autonomy in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, which the ethnic Tamil minority dominates - a demand the government says is excessive. Those are the same areas the rebels wanted to become an independent Tamil state during 20 years of fighting with government forces, in which more than 60,000 people died.

The statement from the aid donors comes as a Norwegian peace broker visits Sri Lanka this week for talks with government and rebel leaders. The Tamil Tigers warned last month that if peace talks do not resume soon, they are prepared to go back to war.