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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Colombo lifts ban on Tamil Tigers
Scene of Tiger attack
The ban was imposed after a rebel bomb attack
Sri Lanka has decided to lift a ban on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels clearing the way for formal peace talks in Thailand.

Reports quoting state-run television say the government would reimpose the ban if the talks with the Tamil Tigers failed.

The Norwegian brokered negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE are due to begin on 16 September at an as yet undisclosed venue in Thailand.


It (the ban) will be lifted for one month from September 6...and it can be reimposed if the talks break down or the LTTE decides to leave the talks

Sri Lanka Government

The lifting of the ban meets one of the main demands made by the Tigers for peace talks to start.

The LTTE was banned in January 1998 following a truck bomb attack carried out by the group against one of Buddhism's holiest shrines in which 20 people were killed.

Correspondents say the current efforts offer the best chance ever to bring peace to Sri Lanka, where nearly 65,000 people have been killed in the LTTE's campaign for a separate Tamil homeland since 1983.

Conditions

"It (the ban) will be lifted for one month from September 6...and it can be reimposed if the talks break down or the LTTE decides to leave the talks," state television Rupavahini said, quoting the government.

Formal peace talks were due to begin in May, but were put back following arguments over the agenda and the implementation of a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire accord adopted in February.

Tamil tiger soldier
The war has gone on for nearly two decades

The government says it now has enough support in parliament to implement any changes agreed upon during peace talks.

But officials say the talks in Thailand will not include any discussion of the rebels' main objective - a separate homeland for Tamils in the north and east of the country.

The government has said in the past that it would consider giving greater political autonomy to Tamil-dominated areas, but within the framework of a unitary Sri Lankan state.

One factor which observers believe has been delaying the talks is a dispute over President Kumaratunga's constitutional powers to dissolve parliament - a right the government wants taken away.

The government now says it has the support of a two-thirds majority in parliament to enable it to pass a package of constitutional reforms next month.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

15 Aug 02 | South Asia
15 Aug 02 | South Asia
14 Aug 02 | South Asia
14 Aug 02 | South Asia
14 Aug 02 | Crossing Continents
12 Aug 02 | South Asia
28 Jul 02 | South Asia
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