Guwahati (Agencies): Banned insurgent outfit ULFA on Saturday announced unconditional peace talks with the Centre on February 10 to reach an amicable solution to their 31-year-long armed struggle.

Calling it as a ‘courtesy call’, senior ULFA leader Sasadhar Choudhury said that the outfit "would like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be present during the talks on Thursday as he represents Assam in Parliament".

Asked whether ULFA's core demand of 'sovereignty for Assam' would be discussed, Choudhury said, "We have decided to go for unconditional talks. Through talks, the process for resolution of Assam's problems will be started."

"Respecting the wishes of the people of Assam and the Jatiya Abhibartan (intellectuals), we have decided to go for talks," he said.

ULFA is yet to select its leaders to participate in the discussions.

"Though the ULFA's agenda for the meeting has not yet been worked out, it will have all the problems of Assam," he said.

Sasadhar Choudhary added that ULFA has not yet decided on asking for general amnesty.

Asked if the ULFA would go for ceasefire in view of the unconditional talks with the Centre on February 10 in Delhi, Choudhury said, "There is no ceasefire yet. Our central executive committee has to decide on ceasefire".

Asked if the ULFA would surrender its unlicensed arms to the government prior to the upcoming state assembly polls as per directions of the Election Commission, he said, "We don't have much arms".

He also declined to give the number of ULFA cadres by smiling when asked about the figure.

However, within hours of the press conference by top ULFA leaders, its hardline faction said it would continue its struggle till "attainment of Assam's sovereignty".

In an e-mail to the media, a leader of the hardliners Arunuday Dohotia said, "We are ready to take any measures for Assam's sovereignty.

"If tomorrow our 'c-in-c' (Paresh Baruah) will say that Assam's sovereignty is an impossible task, then he too will be expelled from ULFA."

Rajkhowa in touch with Paresh

Putting all rumours to rest, ULFA 'vice-chairman' Pradip Gogoi told reporters in Guwahati that there was no split in the ULFA as its 'chairman' Arabinda Rajkhowa and elusive 'commander-in- chief' Paresh Baruah were in frequent contact with each other.
 
Supporting him, ULFA 'foreign secretary' Sasadhar Choudhury said Rajkhowa was in frequent touch with Baruah.

"There is only communication gap with some of our leaders and cadres. We have not been able to contact them to inform them about the resolution of our central executive committee and the general council to go for unconditional peace talks with the government," said Gogoi.

"Unless and until he (Baruah) has formally rejected the resolution taken by our central executive committee and general council, ULFA has to say he is the c-in-c," Choudhury said.

When pointed out that Baruah recently sent a video to the media here reiterating ULFA's demand for sovereignty of Assam at a time when they were going for unconditional talks, he said, "The video was shot before the resolution was adopted for the peace talks."

Army appeal to ultras for talks

With ULFA declaring its readiness for unconditional talks, the army appealed to other insurgent groups of the North East to come forward for negotiations.

All insurgent groups should shun violence and come to the negotiating table to resolve their grievances, GOC Lt Gen N K Singh said on the occasion of the raising day of Army's 3 Corps.

He expressed happiness over 2010 being the year of least violence in North East after many years and appreciated the people of the region for their cooperation.

 

 

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