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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 14:54 GMT
Sri Lanka announces 'confidence' measures
A soldier stands guard at the scene of a bomb blast in Colombo
Talks were held on a permanent ceasefire
By Amal Jayasinghe in Colombo

Sri Lanka has announced new measures to clear the way for a permanent ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels.

The government says it has eased restrictions on fishing in the troubled waters of the island's northeast, bowing to a long-standing demand by local fishermen.

They will now be able to stay at sea for longer periods, use more powerful boats and have more crew on board.

An economic embargo on areas held by Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the island is also due to be officially lifted on Tuesday.

The measures were announced amid moves by Norway to arrange face-to-face talks between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Tamil Tiger rebels have been leading a drawn-out campaign for an independent homeland.

New confidence

A Norwegian peace delegation left Sri Lanka at the weekend after two days of talks with Sri Lankan leaders on arranging a permanent ceasefire.

LTTE rebel
The peace process is challenging and difficult for both sides

The Norwegians say there is an increased level of confidence between the two sides.

Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe told senior members of his party that he was determined to press ahead with plans to politically end the island's separatist conflict.

He also sounded a warning to those he called extremist elements opposed to a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Mr Wickramasinghe said he would not allow them to, as he put it, set the country on fire.

The prime minister says he is ready for a political settlement that will not divide the island.

He says at the same time he will not allow anti-peace elements to create trouble in a country where all previous attempts at peace have failed and led to more bloodshed.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | South Asia
Norway opens Sri Lanka peace talks
10 Jan 02 | South Asia
Norway peace team in Sri Lanka
05 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka leader backs peace moves
04 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's Tigers start talks
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka wants ceasefires strengthened
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka eases Tamil embargo
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