Norway called the two-day talks because of fears over the safety of the 60-member Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last month attacked a Sri Lankan navy convoy which was carrying Norwegian observers.

It would have been the first time the two sides have met since February in Geneva, but the scope of the talks was going to be limited.

Erik Solheim, minister for international development in Norway, said: "These talks are not aimed at finding a political solution to the armed conflict and do not substitute the Geneva talks aimed at strengthening the implementation of the ceasefire agreement of 2002.

"My expectations for this meeting are minimal."

Solheim said the monitors need clear support from the government and the Tamil Tigers.

"They have to stop criticising the monitoring mission and send out a clear message that they support what they do," he said.

A police officer guarding a monitoring mission office in the north of Sri Lanka was wounded on Tuesday when rebels opened fire at a sentry point, police said.

The Tigers had played down the importance of the meeting, saying they were attending the discussions out of respect for Norway, which has been trying to arrange a peace deal since 2000.

The monitors have angered both sides by accusing them of breaching the ceasefire. They have blamed members of the armed forces for extra-judicial killings and ruled that the Tigers have no right to send their Sea Tiger warships to sea.

The Tigers, angry after the European Union last month listed them as terrorists, have hinted that they want monitors from EU states withdrawn from the mission.

Tiger attacks

Violence continued on Thursday, as suspected Tamil Tiger rebels set off a mine in the north of Sri Lanka, killing an army officer, military officials said.

The officer was killed when the rebels set off a mine in the Wanni region and ambushed an army pickup. Two others were wounded.

In the northeastern district of Trincomalee, the LTTE clashed with a breakaway group, leaving at least 15 people dead, officials said.

On Wednesday, eight civilians were killed and 14 wounded when a mine exploded in the east of the country. The Tigers blamed the explosion on government forces.

Renewed violence has claimed at least 650 lives since December last year, according to an official count.