Sri Lanka's new president to try to resurrect faltering peace talks with Tamil rebels

Sri Lanka's newly elected president will immediately try to resurrect faltering peace talks with the country's Tamil Tiger rebels, the government said Thursday, and hinted at some flexibility on a power-sharing with the guerrillas, an apparent reversal of his campaign stance. President Mahinda Rajapakse, who won last week's election, "will immediately invite political leaders and parties representing Parliament to come to a certain consensus" on ways to revive the peace process, Cabinet spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva told reporters.

In response to a question from reporters, de Silva said the government wanted to "see what the consensus is after consultations." "We don't want to be restricted to words," he added, in reference to Rajapakse's previous pledge to keep Sri Lanka undivided.

Rajapakse, who narrowly defeated rival Ranil Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister who signed the cease-fire with the rebels, campaigned on a hardline against the guerrillas, pledging to overhaul a Norwegian-brokered peace process.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE, began fighting in 1983 for a separate state claiming discrimination of minority Tamils against the Sinhalese majority. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before a truce was signed in February 2002. Peace talks stalled in April 2003 amid rebel demands for wide autonomy in the Tamil-dominated north and east.

A recent spike in violence, mainly in the Tamil-dominated northeast, has raised fears of the island slipping back to war, reports the AP. I.L.

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