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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 11:53 GMT
Sri Lanka enters truce with rebels
Sri Lanka war
The rebels also declared a truce at the end of last year
The Sri Lankan Government has announced that it will enter a month-long truce with the Tamil Tigers in response to a ceasefire announced by the rebels.

Earlier this week the Tamil Tigers said they would begin a month-long ceasefire on 24 December and order their forces to halt all attacks.

Sri Lanka's new prime minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe, has pledged to hold peace talks to end the country's long-running ethnic conflict.

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

The ceasefire announcement came even as Australia listed the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organisation and froze their assets.

Embargo lifted

The government also announced that it was lifting an economic embargo imposed on rebel-held territory.

LTTE logo
The Tigers want an independent homeland
"As part of its initiative to bring about an atmosphere conducive to invigorating the peace process, the government will take immediate steps to improve living conditions for civilians in the uncleared (rebel-held) areas," the statement said.

The Tamil Tigers had called for the embargo to be lifted while announcing their truce earlier this week.

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.

His new administration may be more inclined to take the LTTE gesture seriously.

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

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.

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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