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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 13:18 GMT
Solheim to give up Sri Lanka job
Erik Solheim
Mr Solheim at last month's Geneva talks
Norway's peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, has announced that he will soon give up the job.

However, Mr Solheim told journalists in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that he would still lead efforts to resolve Sri Lanka's civil war.

Mr Solheim has played a central role in moves to end the conflict.

Last month he brokered the first face-to-face talks between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels in three years.

'Above expectations'

Mr Solheim said he was giving up the job of envoy to concentrate more on his job as Norway's overseas development minister.

Tamil students cycle to schools as soldiers keep security in Jaffna
Civilians have suffered less violence in recent weeks

Mr Solheim denied that his decision to step down as mediator was as a result of criticism of his role from Sri Lanka.

The BBC's Lars Bevanger in Oslo says that Mr Solheim made it clear that he was still committed to being involved in peace efforts.

Those who "want to get rid of me will not see their dreams come true in that regard", he said.

Mr Solheim said he would hand over to his successor before the second round of talks in Geneva. The name of his successor has not been announced.

At the end of the first round of the Geneva talks, the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers agreed to curb violence and renew talks in April on their fragile truce.

Mr Solheim described that, at the time, as an outcome "above expectations".

The BBC Tamil service's Ethirajan Anbarasan says Mr Solheim remains one of the few figures that both sides in the Sri Lankan conflict find acceptable to talk to.

Appeal for restraint

Meanwhile, the Norwegian ambassador in Sri Lanka, Hans Brattskar, has held talks in the north of the island with the head of the Tigers' political wing, SP Thamilselvan.

Afterwards Mr Brattskar called for restraint on both sides.

"We have seen since the meeting in Geneva a dramatic decrease in the violence," he said.

"But the only way to secure this positive trend is for the two sides to fully implement what they agreed to do in Geneva."

The Tamil Tiger leadership says it will consider pulling out of the Geneva talks because it says the government is colluding with paramilitary groups in spite of a commitment not to do so.

The Tigers allege that the government is allowing paramilitary groups to operate in areas under its control.

That is denied by the government.

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