The chief of the international mission monitoring Sri Lanka's uneasy cease-fire will meet on Thursday with the political chief of the country's Tamil Tiger rebels, a spokeswoman for the mission said. Tensions between the government and the Tigers have increased in recent days, after the rebels' leader warned they would intensify their struggle for an independent homeland next year if more is not done to address the Tamil minority's grievances.
Newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse's government has said it remains committed to a lasting peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and was taking steps to resume stalled peace talks.
Hagrup Haukland, who heads a Norwegian-led mission monitoring the cease-fire, will travel to the rebel capital of Kilinochchi to meet with the rebels' political chief S.P. Thamilselvan, the mission's spokeswoman, Helen Olafsdottir, said Wednesday. "Now we have confirmation that the meeting will take place" on Thursday, she said. The insurgency, which aims to carve out a Tamil homeland in northeastern part of the Sinhalese-majority island, began in 1983, and the conflict has killed some 65,000 people.
The rebels say 3.2 million ethnic Tamils face discrimination from Sri Lanka's 14 million Sinhalese, who live mostly in the south and central parts of the island.
A cease-fire agreement was struck in 2002, but peace talks broke down the following year over rebel demands for greater autonomy in Tamil-majority areas. The uneasy truce continues despite frequent violence. Separately, the chief of neighboring India's southern military command, Lt. Gen. B. S. Takhar, met on Wednesday with Sri Lankan army commander Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda in Colombo, said military spokesman Brig. Nalin Witharanagee. Witharanagee didn't disclose details of the talks, but described them as routine, reports the AP. I.L.
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