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SLUG: 2-314772 Sri Lanka Peace Talks (L-O)
TITLE=SRI LANKA PEACE TALKS (L-ONLY)
INTRO: In Sri Lanka, President Chandrika Kumaratunga's party is trying to get support from smaller allies after her party won the most seats in Friday's parliamentary elections, but fell short of a majority. Meanwhile, Tamil Tiger rebels are warning they could resume their struggle for a separate homeland if the new government does not meet their demands. From New Delhi, Anjana Pasricha has a report.
TEXT: President Chandrika Kumaratunga's Freedom Alliance needs to form a coalition with other parties to get a majority in Parliament, but it will not be easy.
So far, none of the smaller parties that made gains in Friday's elections have shown any inclination to join hands with the Freedom Alliance in forming a new government. These groups include a party of Buddhist monks, the party backed by Tamil Tiger rebels or lawmakers representing Muslims.
A political analyst with the National Peace Council, Jehan Perera, says the smaller parties represent ethnic or religious groups, and are not willing to join President Kumaratunga's alliance because they perceive it as favoring the majority ethnic group, the Sinhalese.
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Now these parties don't find the president's alliance attractive, because the president's alliance campaigned on a rather nationalist - Sinhala nationalistic platform.
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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned that without a majority in Parliament, a new government will not be able to push ahead with peace talks with the rebels or economic development.
Political analysts say the Freedom Alliance may go ahead and form a minority government, and seek allies later.
The Freedom Alliance won 105 seats in the 225-member house, while its rival headed by the prime minister's United National Party trailed behind with 82 seats.
The election was called three years ahead of schedule after differences erupted last November between the president and prime minister about peace negotiations with Tamil rebels.
Peace talks were suspended amid the political wrangling, but a cease-fire has held.
The Tamil Tigers warned they could take up arms again unless Sri Lanka's new government grants them self-rule in Tamil-dominated areas.
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The Tigers say the strong performance of a group they backed in the elections is an endorsement of their freedom struggle. The rebel-backed Tamil National Alliance won 22 seats in the new Parliament, and is now the third largest party in Parliament.
The Tigers fought for two decades for a separate Tamil homeland until signing a cease-fire two years ago, and has agreed to negotiate for autonomy rather than a separate homeland.
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The Freedom Alliance says it is committed to the peace process and resuming negotiations. (SIGNED)
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