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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 17:47 GMT
Sri Lanka wants ceasefires strengthened
Tamil Tiger soldier
The Tigers were the first to call a ceasefire
The Sri Lankan Government says it is working to consolidate the ceasefires currently observed by the rebel Tamil Tigers group and the military.

Constitutional Affairs Minister GL Peiris said the "two unilateral ceasefires" needed to be brought together in a coherent system and framework.

The Tamil Tigers' senior negotiator is preparing to hold talks with representatives from the Norwegian Government, which has agreed to resume its mediation role in the long-running war.

Mr Peiris told journalists in Colombo that the government was taking a "slow and steady" approach to the peace process.

London talks

"We have to learn from mistakes that pervaded the relationship" with the Tamil Tigers in the past, he said.

Ranil Wickramasinghe
PM Wickramasinghe hopes to end the stalemate

He praised the Norwegian embassy in Colombo for playing an important role in reviving the peace process.

Tamil Tigers negotiator Anton Balasingham is due to meet the Norwegian deputy foreign minister in Britain on Friday.

A number of Tamil parties in the northern town of Vavuniya were summoned to a meeting with the army on Thursday, military officials told the BBC.

They were warned to stop collecting illegal taxes and to stop carrying weapons in public.

Key demand met

On Wednesday the government announced a major easing of an economic embargo on rebel-held areas in the north of Sri Lanka.

The move - a key demand of the Tamil Tiger rebels - has increased hope that the recently-elected Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe will fulfil his pledge to bring about peace talks.

The war between the military and the Tigers is estimated to have cost more than 64,000 lives.

The Tigers last month announced they would start a one-month ceasefire, from 24 December.

The government quickly followed suit.

It is the first time in seven years that both sides have observed a halt in hostilities.

Hopes for peace were given fresh impetus by the success of Mr Wickramasinghe's United National Party in last month's parliamentary elections.

Negotiations broke down last June after the previous government led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga accused Norway of bias towards the Tamils.

Apart from the human cost, the Tiger's campaign for self-determination for the country's Tamil minority has wreaked havoc on Sri Lanka's economy.

The BBC's Duncan Bartlett
"The lifting of economic sanctions has been a key rebel demand for negotiations"
See also:

02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka eases Tamil embargo
22 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka seeks Indian support
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka enters truce with rebels
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
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Sri Lanka's hopes for unity
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