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Sri Lanka President Dissolves Parliament, Calls Elections - 2004-02-08


Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has dissolved parliament and called general elections in a move to end a power struggle with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Ms. Kumaratunga used her executive powers Saturday to call for a vote on April 2nd -- three years ahead of schedule. She also appointed two members of her own party as cabinet ministers.

The president appointed her foreign affairs advisor Lakshman Kadirgamar as minister of information and gave the telecommunications portfolio to D-M Jayaratne.

Mrs. Kumaratunga and Mr. Wickremesinghe, who are elected separately, have been at odds over handling of a Norwegian-backed plan aimed at ending three decades of civil war in the island nation. The conflict between the government and ethnic Tamil rebels has claimed some 60-thousand lives.

Those peace efforts have been frozen since last November, when President Kumaratunga dismissed three cabinet ministers triggering a power struggle between her and the Prime Minister. Mrs. Kumaratunga accuses the prime minister of being too soft in negotiations with the rebels.

Mr. Wickremesinghe reacted to Saturday's announcement by canceling a planned visit to Thailand scheduled to begin Monday. With dissolution, the prime minister and his cabinet would function in a caretaker capacity with no power to make key decisions.

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