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Sri Lanka Govt. Drafts Constitution

August 3, 2000

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The government presented a draft constitution Thursday that aims to end the separatist war by giving autonomy _ but not independence _ to the minority Tamils.

If passed by the Parliament, the new constitution will guarantee Sri Lanka’s 3.2 million Tamils a greater say in running their own affairs in the north where they are in the majority.

Rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have already rejected the offer, saying they will settle for nothing less than a separate homeland.

The government has said it will not agree to a division of this small island country off India’s southern tip.

Parliament was expected to debate the draft for three days before a vote is taken. The government hopes moderates among the Tamils will support the move, which could eventually sideline the rebels.

The war with the Tamil Tigers has left more than 62,000 people dead since 1983. The rebels say they are discriminated against by the Sinhalese, who constitute 14 million of Sri Lanka’s 18.6 million people.

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