DATE=4/9/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SRI LANKA MONKS (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-261089 BYLINE=VANDANA CHOPRA DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga has called for a meeting with the country's influential Buddhist clergy Monday to discuss the government's peace proposals as rebel troops mounted a fresh offensive to recover lost territory in the Northern Jaffna region. Vandana Chopra has the details from Colombo. TEXT: President Chandrika Kumaratunga, has called for a meeting with the heads of different Buddhist sects at her home amid rising protests from the clergy about her constitutional reforms which are aimed at ending the continuing ethnic war. This proposed meeting comes following a march, outside the Norwegian embassy, protesting the proposed peace talks between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels. Norway would be the mediator at the proposed talks. The Buddhist monks and many nationalist organizations are wary of making concessions to the Tamil Tigers. The independent Sunday Times newspaper says leaders of the Buddhist monks were meeting over the weekend to make a decision on their response to the President's invitation for Monday's meeting. Sri Lanka is essentially a Buddhist country with 70 percent of the population calling themselves Buddhists. The government and the main opposition United National Party are currently negotiating over proposed constitutional reforms that aim to Give more power to the regional councils. President Kamaratunga said she would then take the reform proposals to the rebels. The rebels are fighting government troops to regain control of their former stronghold, the northern Jaffna peninsula, which they lost in 1996. Hundreds of rebels and soldiers are reported to have been killed or wounded on the peninsula in fierce fighting in the last two weeks after the rebels launched a push to capture the key Elephant Pass military complex. The Tamil Tigers are fighting for a separate homeland for the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka's north and east. (Signed) NEB/VC/PLM TEXT: NEB/WTW/ 09-Apr-2000 07:06 AM EDT (09-Apr-2000 1106 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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