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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Sri Lanka Muslims accept rebel apology

Sri Lanka's biggest Muslim party has agreed to hold talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, after a rebel leader apologised for the expulsion of about 100,000 Muslims from the Jaffna peninsula.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader, Rauff Hakeem, said his party welcomed the shift in the rebels' policy and was ready to open negotiations next week to resolve their differences.

Tamil Tigers evicted the Muslims in 1990, during their armed struggle to set up a separate Tamil homeland. A spokesman for the Tamil Tigers, Anton Balasingham, called the expulsions a political blunder, and said the Tamil Tigers would allow Muslims to return to their homes once the current cease-fire is stabilised.

Muslims account for about seven percent of the population of Sri Lanka, and most of those expelled from Jaffna have been living as refugees in the north-east.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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