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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 13:21 GMT
Sri Lanka head offers peace talks
Mahinda Rajapakse
Mahinda Rajapakse wants the ceasefire renegotiated
Sri Lanka's new president has invited the Tamil Tigers to resume peace talks, a day after the rebels issued an ultimatum for a political settlement.

President Mahinda Rajapakse said he was ready for talks immediately to review the two sides' 2002 ceasefire.

Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had said the rebels would intensify their struggle if there was no settlement within the next year.

Mr Rajapakse was elected this month on a pledge to be tough with the rebels.

The Tigers have been campaigning for more than two decades for self-government in the north and east, which they consider the Tamil homeland.

The 2002 truce brokered by Norway ended more than 20 years of civil war which has killed more than 60,000 people.

'Terrorist acts'

Mr Rajapakse said peace talks could begin immediately but he gave no assurances of reaching a settlement by the Tigers' deadline.

Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
The Tamil Tiger leader says his people have lost patience

The president has said the solution to the ethnic conflict lies with a unitary state, but the rebels' official position is that they want to share power along federal lines.

Mr Rajapakse says he wants the ceasefire renegotiated to halt what he calls "terrorist acts".

The president said: "We can resume work immediately on reviewing the operation of the ceasefire while we prepare ourselves for eventual substantial talks leading to a lasting solution.

"I intend to make the peace process more open and more inclusive than it is now. We are talking about a peace for all the people of this country."

The Tigers have not yet responded to the latest talks offer but have previously warned a renegotiation could cause the truce to collapse.

It has become increasingly fragile since peace talks reached an impasse in 2003.

Mr Prabhakaran said on Sunday that the Tamil people had "lost patience [and] hope" and he was issuing a "final appeal".

He said Mr Rajapakse should put forward a "reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people" soon.

"If the new government rejects our urgent appeal, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our homeland," he said.


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