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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 07:22 GMT
Tamil rebel returns home
Tamil Tiger rebels
Balasingham is due to meet rebel commanders
The chief negotiator for the Tamil Tiger rebel movement, Anton Balasingham, has returned to Sri Lanka after three years in self-imposed exile.

Mr Balasingham flew directly into a rebel-controlled area in the north on board a sea-plane, instead of flying into the country's only international airport in Colombo.

Norwegian mediator Erik Solheim
Erik Solheim is on his way north
"We can confirm his plane from the Maldives touched down on a lake in Wanni," Reuters quoted a senior military official as saying.

He was accompanied on the flight by representatives of the Norwegian team which is brokering peace talks between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan Government.

The principal Norwegian negotiator, Erik Solheim, is reported to be on his way from Colombo for a meeting with Mr Balasingham.

Correspondents say Mr Balasingham intends to encourage the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, to play a full part in direct peace negotiations with the government.

Living in exile

Mr Balasingham holds a British passport and lives in London, where he is the public face of the Tamil Tigers.

His return comes amid efforts to find a negotiated solution to the long-running civil war.

On Friday the Sri Lankan Government said it had begun the process of formally asking a foreign country for permission to host peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels.

It is thought that the Maldives and Thailand are two countries which are being considered.

Correspondents say there has been little debate about what the final solution to the conflict might be.

There is discussion of a future confederation of the north and east of Sri Lanka and the rest of the country, although some government officials say they prefer a federation because they believe that would not allow rebel areas to secede.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka PM visits troubled north
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka eases Tamil embargo
22 Mar 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka prepares ground for talks
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