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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 15:34 GMT
Tamil Tigers deliver peace blow
Sri Lankans offer tsunami prayers at Hikkaduwa, south of Colombo
Mourning the dead across Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have ruled out talks on tsunami reconstruction being used to revive the country's peace process.

The Tigers' senior negotiator, Anton Balasingham said efforts needed to be focused on "alleviating hardships" rather than political matters.

He was speaking ahead of talks in the capital, Colombo, over tsunami aid.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have again rejected a report by the UN that they continue to recruit child soldiers.

'Common strategy'

"Parochial politics is out of the equation at this hour," Mr Balasingham told supporters in the coastal area of Mullaitivu.

The talks in Colombo, he indicated, would concentrate on "structuring a common strategy to ensure equitable distribution of the international aid".

Tamil Tiger recruits
The Tigers regularly deny they recruit underage fighters

Mr Balasingham dropped one of the Tigers' demands before the talks, that aid be given directly to the rebels in the areas they control.

More than 30,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit coastal areas on 26 December.

Early hopes that the disaster would bring the government and rebels together were soon dashed.

Instead there have been bitter recriminations over how much aid the government has allowed into the Tiger-controlled areas.

The tsunami struck as a ceasefire signed in February 2002 was coming under increasing strain.

Foreign donors had already put huge injections of aid on hold while the two sides were deadlocked over the Tigers' demand for a body giving them interim authority in much of the east and north of the island.

'Seeking shelter'

In a separate development, the rebels have denied allegations by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) that they have recruited 40 children since the tsunami a month ago.

A senior Tamil Tiger leader, S Pulidevan, said there were many children orphaned or displaced after the tsunami who had sought shelter with the rebels in villages under their control.

He said the Tigers were in the process of verifying their details and would hand them over to surviving parents and orphanages.

Unicef made the charge on Wednesday - the second time it has accused the Tigers of continuing to recruit children since the tsunami.


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