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Power struggle delays peace: rebel

By CNN Correspondent Kasra Naji

Vellupillai Prabakharan denies charges his Tamil Tigers are preparing for war.
Vellupillai Prabakharan denies charges his Tamil Tigers are preparing for war.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- The leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels says the power struggle between the president and the prime minister has paralyzed the government and severely endangered the peace process.

In a policy statement Thursday, traditionally delivered on the day the rebels remember their martyrs,rebel leader Vellupillai Prabakharan, said his organization remained "deeply committed" to a negotiated settlement.

"Our organization and our people do not want war. We want peace and we want to resolve our problems through peaceful means," he said.

During the last 20 years, the rebels of the Tamil Tigers of Eelam, the LTTE, have been fighting government forces for a Tamil homeland.

They say the Sinhalese majority discriminate against Tamils. More than 65,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict, according to independent estimates.

Earlier this month, President Chandrika Kumaratunga said the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had given too many concessions to the rebels in the two-year long peace process and that endangered national security and territorial integrity of the country.

Kumaratunga took over the Defense Ministry and two other ministries, suspended parliament for two weeks, and appointed her own supporters to run the state-owned media when Wickremesinghe was in Washington to meet President Bush to enlist his support for the peace process.

"As a consequence of her sudden intervention, Ranil's regime has become paralyzed without power and the peace process severely endangered." Prabakharan said.

He rejected President Kumaratunga's allegations that his organization was strengthening its military power and preparing for war.

"I wish to deny categorically that there is any truth in these allegations. These false allegations are leveled against us to tarnish the credibility of our liberation organization and to disrupt the peace process," he said.

Sense of urgency

As he spoke from his jungle hideout in the rebel-controlled northern Sri Lanka, thousands of parents and relatives of rebel martyrs gathered in numerous martyrs cemeteries in the territory to remember their loved ones on this day, the Heroes' Day.

The rebels say they have lost 17,708 fighters in the civil war.

"It is only through their sacrifices the struggle for the rights of the Tamil people has captured the attention of the international community in the present time," a statement on the rebel Web site said.

Earlier Thursday, Wickremesinghe's spokesman said the government was very concerned that it was still not clear who was responsible for pushing forward the peace process with the rebels -- the president or the prime minister.

"There is a sense of urgency. We cannot allow this current stagnation to last long," spokesman Laxman Peiris said at a news conference.

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