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Kadirgamar questions Norway’s impartiality

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, questioned the impartiality of peace broker Norway after earlier urging it to quit unless it can ensure democracy in areas held by the Liberation Tigers.

The Sunday Island newspaper quoted Kadirgamar as saying that Norway - reluctantly asked in 2000 by the then government, in which he was also Foreign Minister, to help mediate an end to decades of civil war - must be seen as impartial.

“I feel that there are occasions when they (Norwegians) could have presented Sri Lanka’s case much more strongly and clearly than has been done. It has led to a perception of partiality in the south," he was quoted as saying.

"In public affairs, one has to be very careful not to allow perceptions to take root in sensitive issues like this."

Asked whether he has taken the matter up with the Norwegians, Kadirgamar said: “I have often raised it with them, in the form of putting to them that the perception of impartiality was very important. That is a question they ought to address.”

Kadirgamar had more bluntly questioned Norway''s impartiality only days earlier in a birthday tribute to President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

"Initially, indeed, the assistance of Norway seemed helpful but with the passage of time it has become apparent that the degree of impartiality is required of an acceptable facilitator has not always been evident in the role of Norway, leading to considerable suspicion in the South that the cause of Sri Lanka in the resolution of the conflict is not being well served.”

“The movement for democracy in certain districts of the North and East must begin to roll. If the government of Norway is unable to plead this cause with the conviction and determination that it deserves it should stand aside and yield to other parties who could carry the flag of democracy in to areas where darkness presently prevails,” he said.

As Foreign Minister in a former People''s Alliance government, also led by President Kumaratunga, Kadirgamar who was then also Foreign Minister, had resolutely opposed third party mediation, declaring Sri Lanka''s protracted conflict an ''internal'' matter.

The shattering losses suffered by the Sri Lankan armed forces in 1999, along with growing international frustration with the dragging conflict, compelled his government to seek a negotiated settlement.

Explaining his decison, Kadirgamar said last week “in defense of it I would say that the stage had been reached in our faltering negotiations with the LTTE when the assistance of an outside party could be helpful."

But Kadirgamar also reiterated his consistent assertion that a solution for him meant to the destruction and marginalisation of the LTTE.

"It is axiomatic that the conflict in Sri Lanka cannot finally be resolved until the LTTE becomes a fully civilian organisation with no army, navy and air capability," he said.

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