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SL govt, oppn sign historic agreement

IANS
Oct 23, 2006 at 03:43pm IST

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's ruling party and the main opposition leaders on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on six main issues, including resolving the country's Tamil minority issue, a spokesman for the president's office said.

The pact was historic because it marks the first time the two parties, which have been ruling the country alternatively since independence in 1948, have entered into an agreement to cooperate.

The agreement between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main party in President Rajapakse's coalition government, and the main opposition United National Party led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was signed at the president's office and comes into effect immediately for a period of two years.

AGREEING TO AGREE: Under the MoU, the two main parties have only broadly spelt out the areas they would cooperate in.

The MoU comes into effect as the government and Tamil rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are set to resume peace talks on October 28 and 29 in Switzerland.

The cooperation of the two main parties will be useful to pass required laws in parliament if necessary to implement any decisions taken at the negotiating table.

A two-thirds majority in the 225-seat parliament is required to amend the constitution. With cooperation between the main parties and with the other minority parties the chances of obtaining the two-thirds majority of 150 seats have improved.

President Rajapakse's party and the UNP collectively have over 140 members.

Under the MoU, the two main parties have only broadly spelt out the areas they would cooperate, but details about the cooperation are due to be worked out between the two sides.

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