Tamil Tiger leaders to meet with high-level Norwegian delegation

Tamil Tiger leaders will meet with a high-level Norwegian delegation and discuss the possibility of resuming peace talks with the Sri Lankan government, a rebel spokesman said Tuesday. "The details (for resuming the peace process) will be worked out when the Norwegian delegation meets with our leadership," Daya Master, the spokesman for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said by telephone from the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.

Master declined to say who would be coming from Norway, which brokered a 2002 cease-fire between the government and rebels, or when they would arrive. The state-run Daily News earlier quoted Yasushi Akashi, a Japanese peace envoy who visited Sri Lanka last week, that there was a possibility of a "high-level political delegation" from Norway visiting Sri Lanka soon to meet with the government and the rebels.

The Norwegian Embassy in the capital Colombo declined to comment on the status of the delegation or when it will arrive. "We don't have a date yet," embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog said. The government has asked Norway to continue as a peace facilitator following its role in the 2002 truce that ended nearly two decades of civil war. Subsequent peace talks broke down a year later over rebel demands for autonomy in the northeast, where the majority of the country's 3.2 million Tamils live.

Sporadic violence continued, and tension has mounted in the South Asian island-nation since rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran warned on Nov. 27 that the Tigers will step up their struggle for an independent Tamil homeland next year if the government does not address their grievances.

President Mahinda Rajapakse says his government is prepared to do so, but not at the cost of dividing Sri Lanka along ethnic lines. At least 18 soldiers have died in other attacks blamed on the rebels since Dec. 4. Earlier Tuesday, the Defense Ministry blamed the Tamil Tiger rebels for a grenade attack at a police meeting in the country's northwest, which wounded 18 officers, reports the AP. I.L.

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