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Sri Lankan Opposition Stages Protest

September 24, 2004

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Thousands of demostrators demanded that the Sri Lankan government resign Friday over its failure to restart peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels or control soaring prices of consumer goods.

``Our intention is to change the government in the quickest possible time and carry forward the peace process and give the people economic benefits,″ Gamini Peiris, a lawmaker from the opposition United National Front, told supporters rallying in the capital, Colombo.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s United People’s Freedom Alliance captured power in April when it toppled a UNF government after she dissolved Parliament three years ahead of scheduled elections.

However, the government has been unable to lure the rebels back to peace negotiations and prices of food items, cooking gas, fuel and transport costs have risen sharply.

Tamil Tiger rebels withdrew from peace talks in April 2003 after accusing the government of reneging on its promises to rehabilitate and resettle the displaced people in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority northeast.

The civil conflict has killed 65,000 people since Tamil Tigers started their violent campaign in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils.

The hostilities largely subsided with a Norway-brokered truce signed in February 2002.

However, recent sporadic violence across the country has threatened the cease-fire.

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