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PM, full UNF team for second meet with President : SLMM intensifies monitoring of frontlines

by Ananth Palakidnar

Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is intensifying its patrolling and other monitoring activities along the North-East frontlines, the Sunday Observer learns. The SLMM is putting in place various intensified monitoring measures in order to guarantee that the Cease-fire is not disturbed while the political crisis in Colombo is sorted out so that the peace process can get back on track.

This move by the 50-strong Mission staffed entirely from the Nordic countries comes as national leaders in Colombo made preparations to continue top-level talks this week to diffuse the on-going crisis.

Acting SLMM Chief Hagrup Haukland has instructed his regional Cease-fire monitors to intensify the patrolling and other monitoring activities in the North and the East, Mission spokesperson Agnes Bragadottir told the 'Sunday Observer'.

As the Cease-fire Monitors take steps to guarantee calm in the war zone, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will meet this week again to find options to settle the current stand-off between the Presidency and the Government. In this week's follow-up to last Wednesday's initial meeting, the Prime Minister is expected to take a delegation of top representatives of the constituent parties of the United National Front. Secretary to the Prime Minister, Bradman Weerakoon told the 'Sunday Observer' that the meeting would explore the various options available to resolve the stand-off.

Neither Weerakoon nor officials of the Presidential Secretariat were able to give a date for this week's meeting at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, despite the current political uncertainty in the South, reports from the North and the East indicate that normally prevails in the region.

Commenting on the present situation with regard to the Cease-fire, SLMM spokesperson Bragadottir disclosed that the SLMM had already held discussions with the Army high command and the LTTE's Peace Secretariat in Killinochi following what she described as "the suspension" of the Norwegian facilitation of the peace process.

"We are confident of maintaining the ceasefire following the assurances given by the Army chief and the LTTE Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi to uphold the Cease-fire Agreement. Therefore, the people in the North and the East and the country at large need not worry too much about the current situation. The SLMM has taken all necessary measures to stabilise the ceasefire," Ms. Bragadottir said.

Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister and peace facilitator Vidar Helgessen, prior to his departure from Sri Lanka on Friday after meetings with President Kumaratunga, Premier Wickremesinghe and LTTE Leader Prabhakaran, said that despite Norways's suspension from the peace facilitation, both the Government and the LTTE have given assurances that the Cease-fire Agreement would be respected. "We have received very clear assurances that the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) will be respected and that the Sri Lankan Armed forces are instructed to continue extending their full co-operation to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission .

The freedom of operation and the security of SLMM personnel is of particular importance to the countries participating in the Mission, " Mr. Helgessen pointed out.

A statement released from the President's media division on Friday stated that the Norwegian facilitators have been assured during their meeting with President that there would be no changes that would have an adverse impact on the peace process or the Ceasefire Agreement.

Director of the Peace Secretariat in Colombo, Bernard Goonatillke, said that the Secretariat would cooperate with the SLMM with regard to the implementation of the Cease-fire. He said that no changes in the functions of the Peace Secretariat were envisaged, and that it would keep on monitoring the developments toward a stabilised political situation in the South.

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