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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Tamil Tigers reject talks offer
Sri Lanka war
The government wanted a ceasefire before talks
Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka have rejected an offer to hold peace talks with the government after a mutually agreed ceasefire.

The Sri Lankan Government said on Wednesday it was ready to agree a ceasefire with the Tigers leading to peace negotiations.


The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] is not naive to jump on a sinking ship

Tamil Tiger statement
But the Tamil Tigers say the offer is one of "calculated political diplomacy" on the part of the government to divert attention from the "deepening crisis in Colombo".

President Chandrika Kumaratunga is trying to put together a new governing coalition, following her government's loss of its parliamentary majority.

"The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] is not naive to jump on a sinking ship," the rebel's London-based spokesperson, Anton Balasingham, said.

"Peace talks are not a crisis management exercise to be invoked at the pleasure of a government which is on the verge of a collapse," he said.

The government had previously ruled out a ceasefire before the start of negotiations - a key demand of the Tamil Tiger separatists which had stymied a Norwegian-brokered peace initiative.

Pressure

Norwegian efforts to broker peace stalled earlier this year over the rebels' demand that the ban on their organisation be lifted before talks.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga
President Kumaratunga: Under pressure after losing her majority
And the Tigers themselves observed a unilateral ceasefire for four months earlier this year, which at that point the government refused to reciprocate.

But the attack by the Tigers on the international airport last month has caused so much economic damage to the country that there's growing pressure on the politicians to bring an end to the civil war.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Colombo says it is possible the government wants to push the peace process forward now in order to woo moderate Tamil parties away from the opposition and restore the government's majority.

Our correspondent says the rejection from the Tigers means the politicians will now be engaged in a struggle for power, which is likely to reach a climax when parliament is to be reconvened next week.

See also:

27 Aug 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka peace movement launched
23 Aug 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka opposition demands talks
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