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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 19:57 GMT
Sri Lanka arms offer to rebels
Tiger fighter
The Tigers had earlier been asked to lay down arms
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga says she is willing to hold talks with Tamil Tiger rebels without them de-commissioning their weapons first.

Sri Lankan president
President Kumaratunga: Tigers not really interested in peace
Up to now, the government has always insisted that the Tigers make a commitment to lay down their arms.

"We were not asking for laying down of arms... or anything like that," she said in an interview with the BBC. "We just said come for talks and we can see what we can agree to."

A Tamil Tiger suicide boat rammed an oil tanker off Sri Lanka as the president made her offer, setting the ship on fire.

It is not clear how the latest attack will affect Mrs Kumaratunga's stance, if at all.

She said that the rebels were unwilling to enter into a peace process despite concessions by the government.

Conditions

She said that although the Tigers had agreed last year to unconditional talks, they had still imposed conditions.


The LTTE has clearly said we will wait and see

President Kumaratunga
The Tamil Tigers insist that the government must remove a ban imposed on them in 1998, agree to a ceasefire and lift all economic sanctions on areas held by the rebels.

Mrs Kumaratunga said the government was willing to consider lifting the ban if the Tigers entered into talks.

She also said that Norway, which has been involved in trying to start talks, was still prepared to play a role.

Norway's role

"The Norwegians are still on board but it seems a little slowed down because the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] have said they are not interested," she said.

The government announced earlier this year that the peace process was deadlocked after nearly two years of work by Norway to bring the two sides together.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the war beteen the government and the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for an independent state for Tamils in the north and east of the island.

See also:

30 Oct 01 | South Asia
Tamil suicide boat rams tanker
29 Oct 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka election opens with blast
31 May 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka talks 'deadlocked'
19 May 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka 'close' to truce
27 Apr 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka: An unwinnable war?
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