Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Colombo says government will keep Tiger truce

AP , COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka's government yesterday pledged to adhere to a truce with the Tamil Tiger rebels, despite failed efforts to revive peace talks to end the island nation's two decade-long civil war.

The vow came a day after the guerrillas rejected the government's latest proposal to resume long-stalled peace talks, saying it does not address their key demand for self-rule.

The rebels' move had been widely expected. Distrust and dislike on both sides have blocked international efforts to persuade the rebels and government to return to the negotiating table.

Yesterday, the government said it had yet to receive the rebels' formal rejection of the proposal, which was made earlier this week.

"But let me reiterate that we will honor the truce and will do nothing to endanger it," said Harim Peiris, the spokesman for President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The rebels and the government signed a Norwegian-brokered truce in February 2002, which has held despite the collapse of peace talks in April 2003.

The insurgents launched their violent campaign for a separate state for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils in 1983. More than 65,000 people were killed in the fighting.

In its latest bid to revive peace talks, the government said it wanted formal commitments from the rebels to honor Sri Lanka's sovereignty and integrity, and a time frame for a final settlement. In return, the government will consider the rebels' self-rule proposal.

The insurgents, however, insist that talks be solely based on their demands for autonomy in the north and east of the island nation, where most of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority live.

The rebels want control over their own administration, police and legal system, unrestricted access to the sea, and the right to collect taxes and receive direct foreign aid.

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