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Norway envoy meets Sri Lanka rebels over tsunami aid
Updated: 2005-02-06 00:35

Norway's ambassador to Sri Lanka met Tamil Tiger officials on Saturday to find common ground between the rebels and the government about distribution of post-tsunami aid over which the two sides have been bickering.

Thousands of people in Sri Lanka lost their homes and are living in temporary shelters after the Dec. 26 tsunami wiped entire coastal villages off the map and killed about 40,000 people.

Hans Bratskar, ambassador of Norway which brokered a ceasefire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), met rebel officials in northern Kilinochchi town for talks "on formulating a common structure between the government and the LTTE in reconstruction activities", a rebel Web site said.

The government says all aid should come to it and not to a "non-state actor" such as the LTTE, which has expressed disappointment over the amount of relief that has reached tsunami-hit areas under rebel control.

A senior government official said this week that 70 percent of people affected by the tsunami in Sri Lanka had not received aid.

The Norwegian envoy had stressed the need for the LTTE and the government to quickly come to an agreement over distribution of aid since the international community was keen to see it reach the right people, said the Web site, www.ltteps.org.

An assessment report by aid donors this week said strong monitoring, transparency and accountability were required to ensure that the millions of dollars of external assistance reached their intended sources and were used efficiently.

Sri Lanka would need about $1.5 billion for reconstruction, the report by the Asian Development Bank, The World Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation said in the report.

The report raised concerns over corruption and waste involving aid.

"The allocation of resources, both domestic and international, should be strictly guided by the identified needs and local priorities, without discrimination on the basis of political, religious, ethnic or gender considerations," it said.

LTTE have waged a two-decade war for autonomy in northern Sri Lanka, which sustained 20 percent of the damage from the giant waves.

The government, meanwhile, withdrew tax and duty exemptions on most goods that were allowed to be imported free as part of relief measures soon after the tsunami.

The ministry of finance and planning said in a statement that since disaster management had moved into a rehabilitation and reconstruction phase it was discouraging imports or donation of rice to safeguard local farmers who will soon harvest their crop.

"Therefore, only certain items such as medical supplies, milk powder, infant milk, infant food, roofing material and components of pre-fabricated houses will be released free of duty," it said.

The ministry banned imports of rice, biscuits, instant food, garments and drinking water and said voluntary organisations providing relief to tsunami victims were encouraged to seek cash donations from overseas than in kind as most of the requirements could be met locally.

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