- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Agence France-Presse) — Ethnically divided Sri Lanka was in talks this week with the chief negotiator of the Irish Republican Army, Martin McGuinness, seeking to learn from the Northern Ireland peace process, officials said.

Mr. McGuinness held talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Tuesday, officials said, and the visitor also made a presentation to Cabinet ministers on his experiences.

They said Mr. McGuinness was to meet separately with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam regarding the island’s faltering efforts to end three decades of bloodshed that has taken more than 60,000 lives.

“There is a lot we can learn from his experience,” an official in Mrs. Rajapakse’s office said. “Cabinet ministers had a closed-door meeting with him.”

Sri Lanka is awaiting the arrival next week of Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim to try to jump-start peace talks that have been on hold since April 2003.

Tamil Tiger rebels, who seek full independence for the island’s ethnic Tamil minority, agreed to accept a federal solution in December 2002, but those talks remain inconclusive.

Some Tamil Tigers have already traveled to Northern Ireland to study the peace process there as well as to South Africa, which is seen as a potential venue for talks between Colombo and the Tigers.

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