S. Lankan Govt to Ascertain Tamil Rebels' Genuineness for Talks: FM

The Sri Lankan government will first ascertain whether separatist Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is genuine about his peace overtures before committing itself to direct negotiations, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said.

Kadirgamar was quoted Monday by The Island newspaper as saying in recent days that the government was studying leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Prabhakaran at the moment but considering his past record it is not easy to make a speedy assessment of him.

The Norwegian peace mediation had been encouraging so far. It could be fruitful if the rebels were genuine, but it may take time to reach a settlement, he said.

Kadirgamar said Sri Lanka was a unitary state and to talk of self determination was a futile exercise. The most that could be granted is devolution.

Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solhiem who was in Colombo last week left after discussions with Sri Lankan leaders. President Chandrika Kumaratunga told him that negotiations could take place but there will be no ceasefire.

Solhiem is due to meet Tamil rebel Theoretecian Anton Balasingham in London and return to Sri Lanka next week to revive peace process which was deadlocked over ceasefire issue in the war-torn country.

The LTTE rebels announced a one-month ceasefire starting from Christmas eve last year and wanted the government to reciprocate their truce offer. The government said a ceasefire would be considered only after peace talks between the two sides head toward a settlement for the long-running ethnic war.

The LTTE rebels have been fighting a bitter war against government forces since 1983 for a separate Tamil state in the north and east of the country. In the past they have entered peace negotiations with the government several times but they violated agreements with the government and resumed fighting soon.

Govt Not to Impose Ceasefire With Tamil

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake has stressed that nobody would be able to pressurize his government to impose a ceasefire with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels who have been fighting for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country since 1983.

He was quoted by the state-own Daily News newspaper on Monday as saying that the government would fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels till they were eliminated and there would be no ceasefire even during peace talks.

Addressing a sports meeting for disabled soldiers on Saturday, the prime minister said that he was making this pledge to all those who had lost their arms, limbs and eyes in the war and assured them that they would never be abandoned.

Wickremanayake, a hard-liner towards LTTE rebels, added that there was no need to even consider a ceasefire as the morale of the ground troops was very high.

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