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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 15:54 GMT
Sri Lanka rebels announce truce
Sri Lanka war
The rebels also declared a truce at the end of last year
Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka have announced a month-long ceasefire to start on 24 December.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe
Mr Wickramasinghe has promised peace talks
In a statement, the Tigers said they would order their forces to halt all attacks and hoped that the new government of Ranil Wickramasinghe would reciprocate.

They said the truce may be extended, depending on the government's reaction.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Tyrone Fernando, told the BBC that his government welcomed the move.

He said the government would respond positively in the next few days.

Mr Wickramasinghe, whose party won the 5 December general elections, has pledged to pursue efforts to start peace talks to end the country's long-running ethnic conflict.

The Tamil Tigers announced a similar ceasefire late last year, but it but eventually collapsed amid renewed fighting between the rebels and government forces.

'Cordial conditions'

"If the Sri Lankan government reciprocates positively...and takes immediate steps to remove the economic embargo and other restrictions, the LTTE will favourably consider extending the period of ceasefire to create cordial conditions for a stable peace and de-escalation," the Tiger statement said.

LTTE logo
The Tigers want an independent homeland
The embargo comprises government restrictions on a long list of goods which cannot be taken into Tiger-held areas in the north and east of the country.

Efforts brokered by Norway to get the majority Sinhalese government and minority Tamil rebels to the negotiating table have so far failed to make headway.

But Mr Wickremasinghe's United National Party (UNP) went into its first parliamentary session on Wednesday with firm promises of renewed peace talks.

No coincidence

The BBC's Frances Harrison says the timing of the statement's release on the first day of the new parliament is no coincidence.

Mr Wickremasinghe's new administration may be more inclined to take the LTTE gesture seriously.

He is due to visit India on Saturday, and our correspondent says he may well seek advice on how to restart the peace process.

The Tigers' statement did not reiterate a previous demand that the government lift a ban on the LTTE before talks could start again.

The rebels said they declared the ceasefire, "encouraged by the collective mandate for peace and ethnic harmony given by the Sinhala and Tamil masses at the general election".

The Tigers are fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the country.

The BBC's Frances Harrison
"Political leaders on all sides expressed the need for peace"
Editor of the BBC Sinhala Service Priyath Liyanage
"He is serious about it, I think"
See also:

19 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's new parliament sworn in
09 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's new PM sworn in
12 Dec 01 | South Asia
Tamil Tiger attacks in Sri Lanka
30 Aug 01 | South Asia
Tamil Tigers reject talks offer
27 Aug 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka peace movement launched
23 Aug 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka opposition demands talks
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Sri Lanka's hopes for unity
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