"We are getting ready to submit (the plan) before the close of this month," S P Thamilselvan, the head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) political wing, told reporters in Oslo on Thursday after meeting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen.

   

The rebel interim administration proposal is a reply to a Sri Lankan government scheme for a power-sharing body for the Tamil-dominated north and east of the island to end a two-decade civil war in which 64,000 people have died.

 

Confidence

   

Thamilselvan said the rebels were sticking to a Norwegian-brokered February 2002 truce even though the rebels broke off peace talks in April, accusing Colombo of reneging on promises to rebuild Tamil areas.

   

"We are confident that the package (of proposals) contains the realistic steps to bring about normalcy and bring about mechanisms that will administer the war-torn areas," he said.

   

He gave scant details of the plan but said that the Tamils favoured quick elections.

   

"We wish that an election should be held at the earliest possible," saying that a million Tamils had been displaced by the fighting and thereby denied the right to vote.

 

"The Tamil Tigers have never presented their own thorough plan for solving the conflict"

Erik Solheim
peace envoy, Norway

"We really hope they will be able to move the process forward," Petersen said of the peace proposals.

   

Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim described the rebel plan, to be handed to the Norwegian embassy in Colombo and then passed to the Sri Lankan government, as a historic step.

 

Denial

   

"The Tamil Tigers have never presented their own thorough plan for solving the conflict," he said. "We expect that talks will be resumed, based on the rebel and government proposals."

   

Thamilselvan reiterated denials that the Tamils used child soldiers but said many children whose families had been killed in fighting sought refuge at rebel shelters. And some underage volunteers lied, saying they were over 18.

   

He also said that Tamils could represent the interests of Muslims, rebuffing suggestions of separate Muslim delegates at future peace talks.

   

"We consider Muslims as Tamils - for all purposes their mother tongue is Tamil and they are our brothers and sisters," he said. "There is no difference, it is only the denominational difference of their religion."

   

The government proposals would give the rebels wide powers over rebuilding and resettlement of displaced people, but no power over policing and security. The rebels, however, have run their own police for 10 years in the areas they control.