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Sri Lankan panel to heal rift

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga

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Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Sri Lanka
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's feuding president and prime minister have appointed a committee to try patch up their differences.

The pair have been at loggerheads over power sharing and how to proceed with a peace process with Tamil Tiger rebels.

"A committee of officials was appointed to work out the details of future working arrangements under which the president and prime minister could work together on these important national issues," said a statement by both sides after a 90-minute meeting.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet again in two weeks.

The peace negotiations between the government and Tamil Tigers based in the north of the country have been thrown into disarray in the past couple of weeks.

Norway has pulled out of its role as a peace broker in the island's civil war, laying the blame squarely on the feud between the President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The withdrawal marked a dramatic suspension of years of Norwegian diplomacy.

The political crisis erupted when the president sacked three cabinet ministers and suspended parliament while Wickremesinghe was on a government visit to the United States.

Kumaratunga also taking control of state media and suspending parliament.

She has accused Wickremesinghe and the Norwegian facilitators of making too many concessions with Tamil rebels during peace efforts.

A Norwegian-brokered cease fire has been in force since February last year, but peace talks stalled in April 2003.

Kumaratunga has maintained that she has no plans to resume hostilities with the rebels -- formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The LTTE have been fighting for 20 years for a separate state in the country's north and east for the Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the civil war.


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