Lanka government, rebels to hold talks

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers will hold talks with the Colombo government on salvaging their truce "in a couple of weeks" in Norway, a pro-rebel website quoted the separatists' top negotiator as saying.

    Colombo accuses the rebels of killing Kadirgamar

    The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wrote to peace broker Norway on Friday agreeing to hold talks amidst fears for the ceasefire following last week's assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Tamilnet reported.

      

    "The LTTEs theoretician (Anton Balasingham) revealed that the talks, facilitated by the Norwegians, would be held in Oslo within the next couple of weeks," the Tamilnet website said.

       
    Earlier in the day, the 

    rebels said no decision had been reached on holding direct peace talks with the Lankan government.

    Daya Master, the spokesman for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said "no decision has been taken. Our leader is considering it." 

    Master, reached by telephone in Kilinochchi, the rebel capital, said reclusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran would "later write a letter to the Norwegian Foreign

    Minister (Jan Peterson)".

    Norwegian statement

    Meanwhile, the chief of the Norwegian peace-negotiating team said Colombo and the Tamil Tigers had agreed to hold h

    old high-level talks on how to preserve a 2002 truce shaken by the slaying of the island's foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

    "It is not question of reviewing, it's a question of a discussing the implementation of it," head of the Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Hagrup Haukland, told Reuters.

    "It's just to run through the ceasefire agreement and run through the problem areas and then see how to strengthen it and how to implement it," he said.

    The government says the Tigers 
    have broken the ceasefire

    On Thursday, the government called for concerted international action against the Tigers to force them to observe the ceasefire, which has come under severe strain from a rash of attacks in the east and last week's assassination of the foreign minister.

    President Chandrika Kumaratunga's office said she had written to Norway seeking an urgent meeting "to review the practical functioning of the ceasefire agreement with a view to preventing further killings and other violations".

    Her government has been pushing for a full-scale review and has said it wants ancilliary arrangements or appendages added to the current ceasefire agreement, which the Tigers reject. 

    She has accused the Tigers squarely of killing Kadirgamar, a charge the rebels flatly deny.

    War no option

    However, the Tigers' angry rhetoric and threats of imminent war have subsided since the assassination, and they have said for the first time that a return to a civil war that has killed more than 64,000 people is not an option.

    Kadirgamar's killing was a major setback for any hope of converting the three-and-a-half year ceasefire into lasting peace after a conflict that flattened whole towns in the rebel-held north and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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