At the end of their two-and-a-half-hour inconclusive meeting, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said they would meet again next week.

"We have decided to move forward and continue the dialogue with all parties concerned," the two leaders said in a joint statement.

It was their first meeting since Kumaratunga sacked three ministers and suspended parliament on 4 November while Wickremesinghe was on an official visit to Washington.

"The meeting went well," Bradmman Weerakoon, the prime minister's secretary said.

Wickremesinghe entered the heavily guarded office of Kumaratunga at 11.30 am (05:30 GMT).

But few expected a significant outcome from the much-anticipated meeting, as neither of the childhood acquaintances and scions of political dynasties appeared ready for a compromise yet.

While Kumaratunga wants to discuss a government of national unity, Wickremesinghe says he is against it.

Deep distrusts

Kumaratunga sacked the ministers and suspended parliament because she said the prime minister was compromising national security by making too many concessions to the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Wickremesinghe had responded by demanding that either the sacked ministers should be reinstated or the president should take over the peace process herself.

The prime minister also accused the president of jeopardising the peace process by her actions.

Norwegian help

The meeting between the prime minister and president takes place as two Norwegian envoys are in the country in an attempt to get the peace process going again.

Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen and peace envoy Erik Solheim are meeting an array of political leaders.

A newspaper reported that the Norwegians would meet Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

A Norwegian-brokered ceasefire between Colombo and the rebels have been in force since February 2002, but peace talks remain stalled since April.