Tamil Tiger Rebel Ready for Talks
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels said Monday he was ready for unconditional peace talks with the Sri Lankan government and proposed a cease-fire before talks begin.
Velupillai Prabhakaran called for both sides to scale back hostilities _ something the government has so far refused to promise _ but said this was not a precondition for talks.
``We propose a process of de-escalation of war leading to cessation of armed hostilities and the creation of a peaceful, cordial environment,″ he said in a speech at the close of a weeklong memorial by the rebels to honor their dead.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, has waged a 17-year war trying to win a separate Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. More than 63,000 people have been killed.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister said the government would continue fighting even if peace talks were to begin, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported Monday.
``Military action will continue concurrently with peace talks until a final consensus is reached,″ the paper quoted Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka as saying Saturday.
Norway has sent a special envoy trying to bring the government and the rebels back into negotiations after five years. Prabhakaran said the rebels were considering proposals by Norway for confidence-building measures and goodwill gestures.
In his speech Monday, Prabhakaran accused President Chandrika Kumaratunga _ who has insisted military action would continue _ of not being committed to peace, calling her a ``hard-liner committed to a military solution.″
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