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Donor nations pledged Tuesday to provide some $4.5 billion in aid to Sri Lanka over the next four years to help facilitate peace talks with rebel forces, which have been suspended for two months.

The international community urged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, saying it will closely monitor the progress of the peace process.

“The progress of peace negotiations and assistance are closely linked,” Yasushi Akashi, Japan’s special representative to Sri Lanka, told a news conference wrapping up the aid gathering, which ran for two days.

The Tokyo Conference on the Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka was attended by representatives from 51 countries and 22 international organizations.

In a declaration adopted at the close of the conference, the international community called on Colombo and the Tamil Tigers to begin discussions as soon as possible on a “provisional administrative structure” proposed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday.

The Tamil rebels boycotted the conference and suspended peace talks in protest over the Sri Lankan government’s lack of commitment on the reconstruction of northern and eastern regions, where the rebels are dominant.

Donor countries also emphasized the need to draw up a road map that lays out a path toward a political solution, according to the Tokyo statement.

“We see (the conference) as a closing of one phase and the opening of another,” Sri Lankan Constitution Minister G. L. Peiris told the news conference. “The real work starts tomorrow.”

The LTTE, which had been fighting the Sri Lankan government for two decades and is seeking an independent Tamil homeland in the North and East, agreed to a ceasefire in February 2002.

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