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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Tamil Tigers open political office
Tamil Tiger guerrillas with Tamil child
The Tigers may want to move into mainstream politics
Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka have opened a political office in a government-held area in the north of the country.

Tamil Tiger logo
Some say the Tigers are now entering mainstream politics

The Tiger rebels inaugurated their office at Vavuniya under the terms of a ceasefire agreement brokered by the Norwegian government.

In a sign of reconciliation, the Tigers invited a member of a majority Sinhalese community, Harsha Navaratne, who heads a non-governmental relief agency, to open the office.

It is their first major public appearance outside territory held by them.

The ceasefire deal allows Tigers to engage in political activity in areas outside their control provided they are unarmed and out of military-style uniforms.

Entering politics

Officials in the capital say the latest move by the guerrillas could be seen as a sign that they may be turning a new leaf and trying to enter mainstream politics.

However, both sides have made it clear that the peace process could be long and painful and a final solution could take a long time.

The Tiger chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, and several other key leaders, had discussions with the Norwegian envoy in Sri Lanka, Jon Westborg, on Tuesday to discuss the logistics of the first round of talks with the Colombo government.

Rebel radio announced that Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen was expected to visit the rebel-held Wanni region of Sri Lanka on 17 April.

He will hold talks with Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran to finalise the historic meeting scheduled for next month in Thailand.

The Thai Government has agreed to host the first face-to-face talks between Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers in seven years.

See also:

29 Mar 02 | South Asia
Direct talks in Sri Lankan conflict
22 Mar 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka prepares ground for talks
22 Feb 02 | South Asia
Ceasefire signed in Sri Lanka
25 Mar 02 | South Asia
Tamil rebel returns home
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