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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 10:51 GMT
Sri Lanka peace hopes raised
Tamil Tiger fighter
The talks took place in Tamil-held areas
Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim is to brief journalists in Sri Lanka about his surprise meeting with the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga
President Kumaratunga: Appeared to have dropped peace initiative
Mr Solheim met the Tiger leader in the rebel-held Wanni region on Wednesday in what is being seen as a highly significant development.

Mr Prabhakaran has rarely if ever met outside intermediaries, and the meeting has raised hopes that efforts are resuming to try to end the long-running conflict.

Mr Solheim was accompanied by the Norwegian ambassador, John Westborg, and another Norwegian official as part of a three-day visit to Tamil Tiger areas.

They met Mr Prabhakaran and the leader of the rebels' political wing, Tamilselvan.

'De-escalation' call

In a press statement released form London after the meeting, the Tamil Tigers said that Mr Prabhakaran had called for a de-escalation of the Sri Lankan conflict before negotiations with the Sri Lankan government could begin.

The BBC's Alastair Lawson in Colombo says the meeting means that Norwegian efforts to mediate between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers are now back on the cards, and that the Norwegians appear to have the confidence of both sides.

The development is in contrast to statements made by the government during the recent election campaign when it appeared to abandon the possibility of negotiating with the rebels.

No holds barred

The government's official line is that it doesn't welcome foreign mediation in the war.

It says that it would prefer outside countries to provide the facilities to enable the two sides to reconcile their differences.

In the election campaign, President Chandrika Kumaratunga said that there would be no holds barred in the war against the rebels.

She said that the best hope for peace was either in the defeat or the Tamil Tigers or in her plans to alter the constitution so that Tamil majority areas of the country can have more autonomy.

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See also:

24 May 00 | South Asia
Push for Sri Lankan peace
27 Jun 00 | South Asia
Attack on Sri Lankan aid office
18 Jun 00 | South Asia
Tigers kept off devolution councils
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Norway role in Sri Lanka peace plan
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