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Sri Lanka 'working with rebels'


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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Sri Lanka's president says she had no second thoughts asking U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reconsider a planned trip to rebel-held territories in her country.

But President Chandrika Bandaranaike insisted her government and the rebels are working well together in the aftermath of last month's tsunamis.

Kumaratunga told CNN the government had offered to take Annan to Jaffna, the capital of the rebel-held north, but not to other parts.

"The problem was about one part of the north which is entirely rebel held," she said. "That was the area that we advised the secretary-general that it was better that he does not go.

"We could have taken him to Jaffna -- we suggested that -- but I think the secretary general didn't have the time to go do so many trips."

Archbishop Rt. Rev. S. Jebanesan of the Church of South India sent an appeal to Annan, who traveled to the Maldives after Sri Lanka, to go to the areas of Sri Lanka held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).

"Political contours should not be allowed to fetter his visit to the Tsunami devastated Tamil region in the NorthEast coast," Jebanesan said in his letter, a portion of which was published on the LTTE Web site.

"On an earlier occasion too, a visit planned for the U.N. Secretary General was canceled at the last moment due to political pressure," he said, adding that Annan should "visit all parts of Sri Lanka affected by the disaster and not to be selective."

Bandaranaike told CNN that Annan's cancellation would not send a negative message about the conflict, which is currently under a cease-fire.

"The LTTE's working with the government agencies, the U.N. agencies, the NGOs and we are sending them a lot aid, assistance, material assistance, and now we are beginning to talk with them about the rehabilitation," she said.

But S.P. Tamilselvan, head of the LTTE's political wing, said the Sri Lankan government has not been helpful.

"The government is carrying on propaganda that it is sending adequate relief goods to the Tamil people in the northeast," Tamilselvan said in an article for the LTTE's Web site. "For the first three days, there were no supplies received from the government side. It was only with the local resources that we managed the situation."

Tamilselvan also objected to Sri Lanka's creation of army aid distribution centers in the northeast.

"We have formulated an effective delivery mechanism with the inclusion of the Government Agent at the district level and this is functioning satisfactorily without any confusion in the welfare centers," he said. "President's order to bring relief operations under the command of the armed forces, makes the Tamil people suspicious of the government's intentions."


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