Sri Lanka gov't says ready to talk with rebels
The Sri Lankan government said Tuesday that it was ready to talk with the Tamil Tiger rebels if the rebels wanted to do so.
"We are ready to talk if they make an announcement that they are ready," said Keheliya Rambukwella, the minister of Policy Planning and the government's defense spokesman.
The government announcement came as the government troops clinched a major rebel stronghold of Vakarai in the Eastern Province last Friday in an operation which lasted more than two months.
Vakarai, a crucial base of the Tigers and one of their main supply lines, was under the control of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels for over a decade.
This was the second important rebel location annexed by the government troops since September 2006.
Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, the military spokesman, warned that there may be attacks by the Tigers throughout the island.
"We want the public to be vigilant now that they (rebels) are desperate," Samarasinghe said.
He said that the rebel when fled Vakarai had left behind a large cache of arms and the security forces have taken charge of them.
The government has mid-term and long-term plans to re-settle some 41,000 civilians displaced from Vakarai due to fighting, Rambukwella said.
He accused the rebels of keeping the civilians as a human shield to protect themselves from military retaliation.
The success for the government troops in Vakarai came as the military commanders vowed to flush out the rebels from the entire Eastern Province.
The military confrontations are part of the conflict that had claimed over 67,000 lives since the mid-1980s in the Indian Ocean island.
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