- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Sri Lankan update
G.L. Peiris headed home to Sri Lanka yesterday to face the delicate task of trying to craft constitutional changes that will end a civil war after a flare-up of fighting while he was in Washington.
Mr. Peiris, the government minister in charge of industrial development and constitutional affairs, was encouraged that a Norwegian peace envoy arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday to try to renew dialogue between the government and the rebel Tamil Tigers.
"The Norwegians have not given up hope," Mr. Peiris told Embassy Row. "They regard this as a temporary setback."
Envoy Erick Solheim arrived in the capital, Colombo, to continue his efforts to end a war that has claimed about 64,000 lives since the Tigers began fighting for a separate homeland in 1983. Government troops suffered a setback over the weekend, losing 221 soldiers in some of the worst fighting in years. More than 800 were wounded. The army said it killed 190 rebels and wounded 400.
Mr. Peiris hopes the ethnic Tamils will accept a constitutional proposal for more local control and drop independence demands. The Tamils make up about 19 percent of the population, but the rebels are demanding about one-third of the South Asian island.
"We believe in a negotiated, political settlement," Mr. Peiris said.
The government proposal would allow the Tamils to "control their own lives and make their own decisions without feeling the central government looking over their shoulders," he said.
Mr. Peiris, who also serves as deputy finance minister, was in Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. He took the opportunity to meet members of the new Bush administration.
He held talks with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and top officials at the Commerce Department. One of his top priorities is getting better trade deals.
Mr. Peiris is worried about the expiration in 2005 of an agreement under which Sri Lanka enjoys favorable apparel export quotas to the United States. He is worried that Sri Lanka could find itself competing for the U.S. market against African and Caribbean countries that won benefits in a trade bill last year.
"We are not looking for unlimited quota protection," Mr. Peiris said. "We are worried about the lack of a level playing field."

Prueher heads home
Ambassador to China Joseph Prueher is heading home today, about two weeks after he helped negotiate the release of the crew of a U.S. surveillance plane.
Mr. Prueher, who served nearly a year and a half as Washingtons envoy in Beijing, was widely praised for his efforts that ended the 11-day detention of the crew of the plane that collided with a Chinese fighter jet April 1.
"Im leaving tomorrow morning. Todays my last day," he told reporters as he arrived at the U.S. Embassy yesterday.
President Bush yesterday nominated an old college friend to replace Mr. Prueher.
Clark Randt, 55, is a Hong Kong-based lawyer and a specialist in Asian capital markets and foreign investments. He is fluent in Mandarin. Mr. Randt has been a friend of Mr. Bushs since they were students together at Yale.
He previously served in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as a commercial attache in 1982.

Slovak reforms
Reform in the Slovak Republic has been costly to any government that promoted the painful change from a communist to a market economy, but two Slovak reformers hope voters have learned their lesson.
Peter Weiss, chairman of the Slovak parliaments foreign relations committee, and Frantisek Sebej, chairman of the parliaments Committee on European Integration, noted that Slovaks "disqualified" themselves by embracing populist but authoritarian governments in the mid-1990s and rejecting reforms.
Slovakia missed out on the first round of NATO expansion because of the "nondemocratic policies" of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, they told an audience at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Washington last week.
They believe Slovakia is now "back on track" with the 1999 election of a reform-minded government and making progress to join NATO and the European Union.
"For the future of the countrys children, we have to bear the cost of transition because the expectations of the people are very high," Mr. Weiss said.


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