Peace between Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger rebels resigned

Sri Lanka's top official handling the peace process with the Tamil Tiger rebels has resigned. Jayanatha Dhanapala said his decision would allow a new president to appoint his own official but gave no other details for his resignation. The fate of the three-year-old truce between the government and the rebels will be a key issue in the 17 November presidential election.

Peace talks between the two sides have been on hold since April 2003. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has accepted Mr Dhanapala's resignation. She did not name a replacement head of the Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process. Sources close to Mr Dhanapala told Agence France-Presse he had been unhappy with progress in the peace process.

Mr Dhanapala, who is also the country's nominee for the UN Secretary General's post after Kofi Annan retires, is currently out of the country. The ruling party candidate for the presidential polls, Mahinda Rajapakse, has vowed to take a hard line against the rebels if elected.

However, his main rival, Ranil Wickramasinghe, has promised to carry forward the peace talks. He sealed a ceasefire with the rebels in 2002 when he was prime minister.

Violence has increased this year with the number of political killings nearing 200, according to the Scandinavian monitors who oversee the ceasefire.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the two decades since the Tigers began fighting for a Tamil homeland in the island's north and east, reports BBC news. I.L.

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