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Friday, 3 November, 2000, 12:02 GMT
Sri Lanka peace mission continues
Soldier in Jaffna
The government has been trying to regain lost ground
Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim is due to meet Sri Lanka's President Kumaratunga to discuss renewed efforts to end the country's civil war.

Velupillai Prabhakaran
Velupillai Prabhakaran: Rarely meets intermediaries
The talks - which will also be attended by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar - come after a landmark meeting this week between Mr Solheim and the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Norwegian envoy held two hours of talks with Mr Prabhakaran in a rebel-held area in Sri Lanka.

The Tiger leader has rarely if ever met outside intermediaries, and the meeting raised hopes that efforts to try to end the long-running conflict might be back on track.

On Thursday, Mr Solheim told the BBC that the talks were a "positive" step, but that there was still a long way to go.

He said the Tigers appeared serious about the mediation initiative

"We were exploring the possibilities of creating an atmosphere which could make peace talks possible," he said.

Government line

However, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, went on television late on Thursday denying any knowledge of the talks between Mr Solheim and the Tamil Tigers.

He also vowed that the Tigers would be crushed militarily.

Mr Wickremenayake struck a similar hardline note last month during the election campaign, appearing to rule out any mediation in the conflict.

In September, the government launched a series of offensives to gain ground lost to the Tamil Tigers in the northern Jaffna peninsula earlier this year.

The government had hoped to offer more autonomy to Tamil-dominated areas in the north and east of the island as part of a constitutional reform package.

However, the proposals are politically controversial, and lack support from some opposition groups.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | South Asia
Tamil Tigers 'serious about peace'
24 May 00 | South Asia
Push for Sri Lankan peace
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Norway role in Sri Lanka peace plan
03 Nov 00 | South Asia
Crucial phase in peace effort
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