Velupillai Prabhakaran, the head of the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) told Norwegian envoys who met him on Thursday that while he stayed committed to the ceasefire and the peace process, political stability was essential to end the country's 20-year civil war.

 

He sought guarantees from the envoys that government forces would also respect the ceasefire currently in force.

 

"The leader of the LTTE sought the guarantee from the Norwegians that the Sri Lankan government would continue with its commitment to the ceasefire agreement," the Tiger political wing leader SP Thamilseven said.

 

Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen and adviser Erik Solheim met Prabhakaran at a secret location in the country's forested north.

 

Peace mission

 

The two Norwegians are visiting Sri Lanka to talk to a cross-section of leaders and take the peace process forward.

 

The peace process between the government and the rebels who control much of the country's north has become uncertain following the recent political crisis engulfing the country.

 

In a surprise move last week, President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked three ministers and suspended parliament, accusing the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of granting too many concessions to the rebels.

 

Though Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe met on Wednesday to iron out their differences, the meeting ended inconclusively and Sri Lanka's stalemate continues.