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Sri Lanka unveils peace plan; analysts lukewarm

COLOMBO (Reuters) - A home grown peace plan aimed at giving more autonomy to Sri Lanka’s war-torn north and east was officially unveiled on Thursday, but its proposals have already been rejected by Tamil Tiger rebels and left analysts lukewarm.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa attends a political public rally in Galle, about 116 km south of Colombo, September 7, 2007. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe/Files

The All Party Representative Committee’s (APRC) so-called “devolution proposals”, which have been in the making for nearly two years, call for more regional autonomy to territories where rebels have been fighting an independence war for 25 years.

While analysts said they were disappointed with the proposals, they were encouraged the government still appeared to be seeking a political solution to the 25-year civil war which pits minority Hindu Tamils against the majority Sinhalese Buddhists.

“It will be no different from the system that already exists,” said Jehan Perera, an analyst with the non-partisan advocacy group, the National Peace Council.

“But, if the government sincerely implements (the proposals), then it will be a positive sign that the government is keen on solving problems through political means rather than military means.”

The government in 1987 decided to move towards a power sharing agreement in areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but never actually conceded any power.

The APRC’s proposals were the latest reincarnation of that plan, but despite its’ lofty name, the committee credibility problems by excluding the LTTE from the outset, and suffered further when most opposition party members walked out.

While full details of the proposals are still to be revealed, it recommends the full implementation of the 1987 plan -- which was written into the constitution.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he would fully implement the recommendations, but his stance of dealing with terrorism would not change.

Analysts expect the war, which has killed around 70,000 people since 1983, will grind on for years.