- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Timely visit

The ambassador from Sri Lanka predicts tomorrow’s meeting between his visiting prime minister and President Bush will strengthen bilateral ties in a crucial period when talks with separatist rebels are expected to resume after six months.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will thank Mr. Bush for U.S. support of the government during its peace efforts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, whose fight for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority has cost 64,000 lives since it began in 1983.

“The prime minister’s visit follows the earlier visit to the White House in July 2002 to meet President Bush, during which the two leaders discussed key bilateral and peace initiatives,” Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe said in a statement.

“That visit established the foundation for enhancing the bilateral relationship in a mutually beneficial manner.”

The prime minister’s visit comes at a critical time, as the rebels, who broke off talks in May, announced on Saturday they are ready to resume negotiations and released their own peace plan. The rebel plan calls for far more autonomy than the government plan.

The rebels want an interim administration dominated by the Tamil rebels with wide power to collect taxes and control trade, police and security, which are all areas prohibited under the government plan.

The government would appoint members to a “provincial administrative structure” to run the Tamil area in the north and east of the country. The structure would include Tamil rebel representatives.

In his statement, the ambassador also noted Washington’s assistance in organizing international support for Sri Lanka’s reconstruction.

“These efforts underline the active support of the U.S. government in re-establishing peace, national security and economic progress in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Subasinghe said.

Relations between the two countries “are marked by regular, high-level contacts and meaningful bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, national security and global issues,” he said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, who will hold meetings with State Department officials and attends seminars on conflict resolution at American University and George Washington University on her weeklong visit. She will also visit the World Bank, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Library of Congress.

• Tal Becker of the Israeli mission to the United Nations, who participates in a forum on the International Criminal Court at the American Enterprise Institute.

• Xavier Nogales, Bolivia’s minister of development, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tomorrow

• Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who meets President Bush, administration officials and members of Congress.

• Sergei Mironov, speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council. He will meet with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and open an exhibit of photographs of the “New Russia” at the Library of Congress. He also addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

• Premiers Patrick George Binns of Prince Edward Island, Roger Grimes of Newfoundland, John Hamm of Nova Scotia and Bernard Lord of New Brunswick. They lead a “Team Canada Atlantic” delegation of representatives from 40 Canadian companies to meet U.S. business executives.

Wednesday

• President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who meets with President Bush.

• Oazu Nantoi, chairman of Moldova’s Social Democratic Party, who addresses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

• Hector Silva, a candidate for president of Peru, and Ana Cristina Sol, a vice presidential candidate. They address the Inter-American Dialogue.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.


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