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Sri Lanka's outgoing premier warns peace process endangered.

COLOMBO, April 5 Kyodo

Sri Lanka's outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned Monday that that the peace process that paused Asia's longest-running conflict for more than two years is endangered by the election results that returned a hung parliament.

He told a press briefing here that the process was in ''serious trouble'' as no party had won a majority in Friday's parliamentary elections.

''The lack of a parliamentary majority would mean serious problems for the peace process as well as for everything else,'' Wickremesinghe said.

Asked whether his United National Front (UNF) would cooperate with President Chandrika Kumaratunga's party to advance the peace process and urgent issues on the national agenda, Wickremesinghe said that the question is moot as the president was already preparing to swear in a minority government.

Kumaratunga's Marxist-backed United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won the elections but fell short of winning a majority in the 225-seat assembly.

At a meeting earlier Monday of UNF candidates who were elected, Wickremesinghe said that Kumaratunga's party was a minority.

At his news conference, he noted that the last minority government Sri Lanka had was in March 1960 and ''it lasted for two months.''

He also said that the Ceylon Workers Congress, comprising mainly plantation workers of Indian descent, and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress that were junior partners in his coalition had given assurances that they will not break ranks with the UNF.

Meanwhile, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said that the election results in their claimed homeland of the northeast were an endorsement of their struggle by the Tamil people.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a proxy group of the LTTE, swept the northeast by winning 22 seats to become the third largest force in parliament.

''A clear message has been effectively delivered by the Tamil people, in that the concept of the Tamil homeland, Tamil nationalism and the right of Tamil self-rule should be accepted as the basic aspirations of the Tamil people,'' the LTTE said in a statement.

The TNA's election performance showed ''the Tamil national problem should be resolved on that basis,'' the LTTE said.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Apr 12, 2004
Words:352
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