Tamil rebels reject talks proposal

Tamil Tiger rebels have rejected Sri Lanka's latest proposals to revive stalled peace talks and played down prospects of resuming negotiations next month.

    The Tamil Tigers want self-rule in Sri Lanka's north and east

    The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they

    would open talks only on the basis of a self-rule plan

    seeking an Interim Self-Governing

    Authority (ISGA) in embattled areas.

    "Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have dismissed new government

    proposals to restart peace talks," the BBC reported on Monday.

    The BBC's Tamil language service quoted the LTTE's political

    wing leader SP Thamilselvan, who is currently visiting Europe, as

    saying they were shocked by reports of government proposals

    .

    The government announced on Thursday that it had finalised its counter

    proposals and was ready to present them to the Tigers.

    A state-run

    media report said talks could resume early next month.

    Tamil self-rule

    But Thamilselvan reiterated the LTTE's public

    stance that they were not willing to negotiate unless the

    government agreed first to discuss their ISGA proposal.

    "Thamilselvan categorically denied that peace talks would resume

    next month on the basis of that [government] blueprint," the BBC

    said.

    Kumaratunga has called for
    peace talks to resume

    "He also accused the government of sending out conflicting and

    confusing signals."

    The Sunday Observer, a state-run newspaper, said the stalled peace

    talks would resume early next month, ending an 18-month deadlock in

    the Norwegian-backed process.

    A top official from President Chandrika Kumaratunga's office

    visited the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi on Saturday, amid signs the

    peace process was being re-activated.

    However, Thamilselvan told the BBC that none of their top-level

    leaders had met any government representatives recently.

    Civil war

    There was no immediate reaction from the Colombo government to

    Thamilselvan's latest remarks.

    Despite the stalemate in the peace talks, both sides have

    maintained the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire that has been in place

    since February 2002.

    Up to 60,000 people have been
    killed in the island's civil war

    However, the government has accused the Tigers of systematically

    eliminating political opponents, a charge the rebels deny.

    President Kumaratunga earlier this month invited the rebels to

    discuss setting up a federal state in exchange for peace.

    Her government's main coalition partner, the Marxist JVP,

    opposes any territorial concessions to the Tigers, and opposition

    parties have demanded a united front to push ahead with the peace

    process.

    Sri Lanka's civil war between Colombo and the country's Tamil rebels has

    claimed up to 60,000 lives in the past 20 years.

    SOURCE: AFP


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