The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamoni push for talks roll
- Decision on army operations today

New Delhi, Sept. 19: Ulfa peace process mediator Mamoni Raisom Goswami will meet national security adviser M.K. Narayanan tomorrow to seek a fourth extension to the suspension of army hostilities against the outfit, this time for a month.

Home ministry officials were tightlipped about what would happen over the next 48 hours, but conceded that discussions were on at the highest level in the government.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Narayanan, who have just returned to the country from the NAM meeting in Havana, will have to decide tomorrow — the last day of the third extension of suspension of operations against Ulfa — whether the outfit deserves another reprieve before it makes a decision on holding direct talks with the government.

However, the other mediator, Rebati Phukan, will not be present in tomorrow’s meeting. Sources said he will be asked to join “if necessary”, that is, if Goswami’s plea is not heard.

The Ulfa has not yet committed itself to direct talks in a written statement as requested by Delhi. It has reportedly told the Centre that it does not have the quorum of 12 members needed to make a decision to write the “letter”. Sources said this is Ulfa’s argument with the Centre with an eye on securing the release of its five jailed leaders.

Delhi had earlier insisted that the outfit should send a letter stating its readiness for direct talks and that its commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa be present for the parleys after they make the written commitment for such talks.

Goswami and Phukan are hoping that another month of peace might help the Ulfa to take the decision on sending a letter for direct talks.

The Centre extended the suspension of army operations against Ulfa for the third time last week, after Goswami requested the Prime Minister to take a personal initiative to bring the outfit to the negotiating table.

The Prime Minister’s decision this time, however, is likely to be difficult in the light of reports that the outfit has served a Rs 1-crore extortion note to a tea estate in Assam.

Moreover, the army is not really in favour of extending the reprieve beyond a point due to fears that the outfit is buying time to regroup.

Asked about the extortion demand, Goswami said such reports should not be the deciding factor as several individuals and groups pose as Ulfa.

Early this month, home secretary V.K. Duggal had stated clearly that the suspension of operation could be revoked if reports of extortion by Ulfa were received.

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