Sri Lankan government proposes delaying Geneva talks

Sri Lanka 's government on Friday proposed delaying their next round of peace talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels until April 24-25 after the rebels said the original dates conflicted with an important meeting, sources close to the government said. The three-day talks were supposed to start next Wednesday but the rebels sought a postponement, saying they must hold a crucial meeting of their top leaders in Sri Lanka before attending the negotiations in Geneva , Switzerland .

The government suggested holding the talks on April 24-25, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. The Geneva talks come amid some of the worst bloodshed since Norway brokered a cease-fire between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam four years ago, raising fears of a return to civil war.

Since Monday, at least 40 people have died in violence blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, a splinter group that broke away from the Tigers and sectarian fighting between Tamils and the country's majority ethnic Sinhalese. Rebel spokesman Daya Master said the Tigers had asked to postpone the talks because the dates clash with a meeting of their central committee starting this weekend and running through the following Saturday in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi, northeast Sri Lanka.

The request was made during a meeting Thursday between Ulf Henricsson, a top European cease-fire monitor, and S.P Thamilselvan, the rebels' political wing leader in Kilinochchi. Peace broker Norway said Friday it was still making efforts to see that the talks are held on schedule. At least 65,000 people are believed to have been killed in the two-decade conflict before the 2002 cease-fire, reports the AP.


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