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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Tigers welcome ban end
Injured civilians
Tens of thousands have been killed or injured in war

Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka have welcomed the government's decision to lift the ban on them in advance of peace talks later this month in Thailand.

The head of the separatists' political wing, Mr Thamilselvan, told the BBC the ban was the biggest impediment to the peace process.

Shopkeeper dusts down portrait of Tiger leader Prabahkaran in Kilinochchi
Tamil hopes for long-term peace are high
This was the first reaction from the Tamil Tigers to the news that they are no longer banned as a terrorist group in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Thamilselvan, who is in effect number two in the organisation, said this was an opportunity to move the peace process forward.

He said this time round the Tigers were hopeful and positive about the chances of success.

'Courage'

The lifting of the ban was a key pre-condition set by the Tigers for talks to start.

They consider it essential to sit at the negotiating table as the legitimate representatives of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.

Mr Thamilselvan said this time the Tamil Tigers see a very graphic difference in the attitude of the Sri Lankan Government towards negotiations.

He spoke of a courage and strength of will demonstrated by the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

And he said on the whole the steps taken to implement the permanent ceasefire agreement both sides signed in February were encouraging.

'Positive'

Mr Thamilselvan said the underlying spirit showed it could be done.

These are the most positive comments yet from the Tamil Tigers about the current peace process.

Their thoughts are echoed by ordinary people in rebel controlled territory who say they now feel more confident about the talks due to take place in Thailand in 10 days time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Now the Tamil Tigers are wearing civilian dress"

Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

05 Sep 02 | South Asia
05 Sep 02 | South Asia
03 Sep 02 | South Asia
01 Sep 02 | South Asia
30 Aug 02 | South Asia
07 Aug 02 | Crossing Continents
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