Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister visits Europe

Sri Lanka's foreign minister left Thursday for Europe to discuss the island nation's peace process, as a resumption of violence threatened to derail a fragile four-year-old truce.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will visit Britain, France and Belgium for talks on "a range of bilateral issues and certainly, the peace process too," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Himalee Arunathilake.

Samaraweera will meet British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, as well as French counterpart Phillippe Douste-Blazy and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external relations commissioner.

He is also scheduled to address the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament in Belgium, Arunathilake said.

Britain, France and the EU support Sri Lanka's efforts to negotiate a permanent end to the island nation's civil war, which raged for 19 years before being halted by a Norway-brokered truce in 2002.

The cease-fire appeared on the verge of collapse last month until the government and the rebels agreed at a Feb. 22-23 meeting in Geneva to halt attacks.

Despite a brief period of calm, however, violence resumed last week, leaving three people dead, and prompting European truce monitors to express fears that the country was again on the verge of sliding back into civil war. The rebels and government officials plan to meet again on April 19-20.

The government has blamed the rebels for the attacks, but the rebels deny involvement, reports the AP.

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