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Sri Lanka Talks Break Up With No Agreement

Two days of Sri Lankan peace negotiations have ended with no agreement by the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to resume the cease-fire accord that broke down earlier this year. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva the parties also could not agree on a date for another round of talks.

Both sides blamed each other for the breakdown of peace negotiations.

The main sticking point was a dispute over the re-opening of a key highway to the Jaffna peninsula. The government closed the A-9 road two months ago, after it came under attack from the rebels.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the LTTE, said it would resume talks only after the highway, which is used to send humanitarian assistance to the people in Jaffna, was re-opened.

The government minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva, said conditions to resume talks were unacceptable. He said the government had made arrangements to send humanitarian assistance by sea under a U.N. flag.

"But, of course, that too may need some form of assurance by the other party," he said. "So the ball is in the LTTE court. They were complaining, they were telling media and the international community that the government of Sri Lanka is making arrangements not to give assistance to the people of Jaffna."

De Silva said the government already had sent more than 20,000 tons of food to Jaffna.

Through a translator, the head of the Tamil Tiger delegation, S.P. Thamilselven, said the closure of the A-9 highway has resulted in open prison for more than 600,000 people in the Jaffna peninsula.

"The LTTE further stated that providing food alone through sea routes is akin to feeding prisoners," he said. "No satisfactory explanation was given by the government of Sri Lanka delegation for the refusal to open the A-9."

Thamilselven charged the government must have a hidden military agenda.

Chief Norwegian mediator Erik Solheim expressed his disappointment that more had not been achieved, but said there were some positive aspects to the meeting.

"Both parties have very clearly at the talks reiterated their commitment to the cease-fire agreement and to finding solutions in a peaceful manner," he said. "And, they told us that they would not launch any offensives and that they should stop this small violence or daily incidents of violence."

Solheim added that if the parties delivered on their promises, the situation in the country would become calmer and it would be easier to open the A-9 highway and get down to the matter of talking peace.