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Norway faces Chandrika ire

Colombo, Dec. 31 (Reuters): Sri Lanka’s President accused Norway today of breaking the island’s laws because of its role in importing radio equipment for the rebel Tamil Tigers and hinted she could take action against the country’s ambassador.

In a letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, Chandrika Kumaratunga said the matter also raised questions about Norway’s objectivity in spearheading a peace effort to end Sri Lanka’s two-decade ethnic war.

The government — which said last week it had asked Norway to help import the equipment — and the rebels sit down for peace talks on January 6 with ambassador Jon Westborg acting as one of the facilitators.

“I trust that you would appreciate the seriousness of the actions of your ambassador,” Kumaratunga wrote in the four-page letter dated December 30. “I shall decide on the course of action that the government of Sri Lanka should follow after discussion with the Prime Minister and other relevant authorities,” said Kumaratunga, who is elected separately from the government.

A statement from the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week said it had granted a radio licence to the LTTE to help push ahead the peace process and asked Norway to import the equipment.

Kumaratunga, who disagrees with Wickremesinghe’s peace plans, did not mention the fact that the government had asked Norway to act as consignee for the shipment.

Norway’s role led to some Buddhist and nationalist groups who oppose the peace process to demand that the President kick Westborg out of the country. It is not clear if the President or Prime Minister has the power to expel an envoy.

Kumaratunga, who first invited Oslo to be a peace broker in 1999, said the Norwegian embassy broke local customs laws and the Vienna Convention which governs the import of goods by embassies.

She said the incident “has deeply disturbed the public of Sri Lanka because it raised serious questions as to the impartiality of the Royal Norwegian government in relation to the negotiations...”

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