Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Tamil Tigers agree to peace talks


Tamil rebels agreed to talk peace after killing 250 people in a week of suicide bombings and other attacks as Sri Lanka's aid donors push both sides to resurrect a truce, diplomats said yesterday.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) told peace broker Norway on Thursday that they will attend Oct. 28 negotiations in Switzerland, but only because the international community wanted them to.

Diplomats involved in the peace process had not expected the LTTE to return to the negotiating table from a position of weakness after they suffered territorial losses and serious casualties since April.

However, the Tigers overturned the situation, first resisting a major government offensive and killing at least 133 soldiers on Oct. 11 on the northern Jaffna peninsula.

They then killed 115 people in the island's northeast on Monday in their bloodiest suicide bombing, followed two days later with an audacious suicide attack on Sri Lanka's southern naval base at the port of Galle.

"It is fairly certain that the parties now want to go to Geneva for talks," a diplomat said. "No doubt the international pressure is pushing them."

The logistics of ferrying Tamil Tiger delegates from the rebel-held north to and through the island's only international airport could still pose serious challenges to the Norwegian peace brokers, as it has in the past, officials said.

The LTTE delegation, which is yet to be named, "will be going [to Geneva] only on the guarantees given by the international community," the LTTE's political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan said in a statement.

"We are going for talks in deference to the wishes of the international community," he said.

Diplomats said the Colombo government was also keen to resume talks despite a tit-for-tat policy adopted by the authorities since a suicide assassination attempt against army chief Sarath Fonseka in April.

The two sides have blamed each other for spiralling violence that has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 people since December.

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