Sri Lanka's top donor asks Colombo, rebels to stop bickering

A top Japanese envoy on Thursday urged the Sri Lankan government and separatist rebels to take a practical approach to resolve their differences and stop "tirelessly arguing formula or conditions."

"A violence-free Sri Lanka will invite more development assistance and investment from all over the world, strengthening the country's financial position," Japan's Ambassador to Sri Lanka Akio Suda told a news conference.

"We are certainly very much concerned with peace-building," he said of the differences that continue to surface at peace talks between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

Last week, government ministers and rebel leaders met in Geneva in a bid to save a faltering cease-fire. They agreed to meet again in Geneva on April 19-21, but continue to bicker over trivial issues.

The meeting was the first high-level contact between the two sides since peace talks broke down in 2003 after six rounds of negotiations.

The rebels want to carve out a homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority.

Japan is one of the four co-chairs of the Sri Lankan peace process and is also the single largest donor to Sri Lanka.

Suda said Sri Lanka is also one of the largest recipients of per capita assistance from Japan in the world. Since the 1970s, Japan has been extending financial and technical assistance toward socio-economic development of this tropical island which has witnessed much devastation due to the civil war started in 1983, reports the AP.

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