Archive for Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hard-liner gets close win in presidential race

November 19, 2005


— President-elect Mahinda Rajapakse vowed Friday to use his narrow victory at the polls to revive stalled peace talks by meeting the secretive leader of the rebel Tamil Tigers, whose boycott of the vote ensured his triumph.

Throughout the campaign, Rajapakse took a hard line on the rebels, and even Friday's pledge came alongside promises to review a fragile cease-fire and never give in to guerrilla demands for an autonomous homeland for minority Tamils.

"We must have law and order in a single country," said Rajapakse, Sri Lanka's current prime minister, who defeated dovish opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in Thursday's close balloting.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rajapakse said he wanted to hold talks with Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

It is a pledge that Rajapakse made throughout the campaign, but one that may be easier said than done - Prabhakaran rarely sees anyone outside a tight inner circle and makes only a single public appearance a year on Heroes' Day, a Tiger holiday honoring guerillas killed in the civil war.

Still, when asked about his plans, Rajapakse told the AP: "I am ready to talk to the (Tigers), and I am ready to meet Prabhakaran."


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