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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Norway invited to Sri Lanka talks
Tamil Tiger women soldiers
The Tamil Tigers' initiated the ceasefire more than two years ago
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has invited Norway to resume its role as negotiator between her government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said he had been asked by Mrs Kumaratunga to help resume peace talks, which broke down in November.

Norway helped broker a 2002 ceasefire that has held ever since.

Norway has replied with a conditional "yes", but stated it must be invited by rebel chiefs too before re-commencing.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Colombo says there is no reason to think the rebels would have a problem endorsing the role of the Norwegians as the have always strongly supported international involvement in the peace process.

Fresh thaw

Peace talks between the two sides stalled last year when Tamil leaders pull out of negotiations amid a government power struggle in the capital, Colombo.

Mrs Kumaratunga has previously accused Norway of being biased towards the rebels.

We hope [the Tamils' request] will come. If so, we will consult both sides about how the process can be brought forward
Kjell Magne Bondevik
But Mr Bondevik said a recent election and subsequent new government in Sri Lanka could be the reason for the welcome thaw.

"I said that Norway was willing to comply, on condition that we also get a request from the Tamil Tigers," he said.

"If that comes, and we hope it will, we will consult both sides about how the process can be brought forward."

The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought Sri Lankan authorities for 19 years in pursuit of a separate Tamil state.

The ethnic civil war is estimated to have caused 64,000 deaths in the country.


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