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Lanka Prez vows to end ethnic strife

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday vowed to press ahead with a political power-sharing plan to address grievances of minority Tamils, nearly two years after the security forces crushed the LTTE.

The government was keen to have a permanent political solution to the island nation`s vexed ethnic issue, Rajapaksa told a breakfast meeting with Colombo-based foreign correspondents at his Temple Trees residence.

"I am ready to share power at the centre. It is better to share at the centre than at the periphery," he said, adding that he has already asked opposition Tamil parties to come up with a common negotiating position.

Rajapaksa said he was committed to the 13th amendment to the Constitution on devolution of powers, which was brought about as a result of the July 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord.

"I am ready to grant 13 plus," he said, referring to an offer to improve on the devolution plan, but said he was not willing to consider granting police powers to regions.

Rajapaksa said he wanted Tamils to have a greater representation at the national Parliament as well as in a proposed second chamber, which could be modelled on an upper house of Parliament or Senate.

He said he did not want to force a solution on the Tamils, but preferred democratic Tamil parties to come up with a negotiating position.

He said he was also ready to address the concerns of the majority Sinhalese community that there would be no division of the country on ethnic lines, only greater sharing of power.

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