Officials said the talks on Sunday were held up over a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] demand that the government reopen a highway that crosses through Tiger territory to the besieged army-held Jaffna peninsula in the Indian Ocean island's far north.

S PThamilselvan, chief negotiator for Tamil Tigers, said they would not participate in new talks until the A9 highway linking the north to the rest of the country was reopened, a demand refused by the government in the weekend session.

The Norwegian mediators had hoped to set dates for two more rounds of face-to-face negotiations in December and January in the absence of any other progress.

"It is regrettable that they [the Tamil Tigers] have imposed a condition for future talks," Nimal Siripala de Silva, head of the government delegation, told a news conference.

'Highway of death'

The road - nicknamed the "Highway of Death" because of past battles fought over it - was closed in August due to fighting, stopping supplies and leading to more hardship for residents. The government says it is unsafe to reopen the road because of Tamil Tiger artillery fire.

"No agreement was reached on humanitarian issues or on another date for talks."

Erik Solheim, Norway's international development minister and the chief mediator

Sources close to the talks told Reuters news agency that each side spent Sunday blaming the other for abuses. Norwegian mediators had to resort to meeting each party separately when it became clear that they could not even agree on how to deal with humanitarian concerns.

"No agreement was reached on humanitarian issues or on another date for talks," Erik Solheim, Norway's international development minister and the chief mediator, said at a news conference.

However, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the truce signed in 2002.
  
"Both sides reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement and promised not to launch any military offensives," Solheim said.
 
Military offensive

Rasiah Ilanthiriyan, the LTTE's military spokesman, accused government troops of preparing to launch a major offensive against Tiger-held territory in Jaffna.
  
"There is a heavy troop build-up along the front lines at Muhamalai, Nagarkovil and Kilali," Ilanthiriyan told AFP news agency. "This could have serious consequences for the entire peace process."
  
He said both sides were exchanging artillery and mortar fire.
  
The Sri Lankan military has accused the Tigers of launching long-range attacks against security forces in a bid to draw fire from them.
  
There have been hundreds of killings since July despite the 2002 ceasefire agreement, and many analysts fear the civil war will resume.