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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 19:04 GMT
Police hurt in Sri Lanka attack
At least 17 policemen have been wounded in a bomb attack in north-western Sri Lanka, officials say.

A number of those hurt in the attack on Pesalai police station in Mannar district were taken to hospital.

Earlier, two soldiers were hurt in a mine explosion near the eastern town of Batticaloa, the military said.

The mine blast targeting the troops is the fourth in a week that has been blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels. Two blasts last week killed 14 soldiers.

The situation in terms of security is clearly deteriorating and it is causing considerable concern
Japan envoy Yasushi Akashi

The rise in violence comes as Japan offered to host direct government-rebel talks in an effort to revive a peace process which many fear may be near to collapse.

The rebels denied carrying out last week's attacks and have not commented on Monday's violence.

It was not clear who threw the explosive device at police in Mannar district, police said.

'Cordial talks'

The military says the earlier claymore mine detonated when soldiers were checking a section of the road at Vantharumulai on Monday morning. One of the men was seriously hurt.

A grenade attack later in the day in Batticaloa district injured a policeman.

Sri Lankan army
The army denies links with breakaway rebels

A civilian was also injured in a separate grenade attack at a bus stop in Valachchenai.

Late on Sunday, another mine blast narrowly missed a bus carrying 60 policemen in the east of the island, the army says.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan officials have met Norwegian ambassador Hans Brattskar in Colombo, after Oslo agreed last week to continue mediating in the conflict.

There had been reports that new President Mahinda Rajapakse was concerned that Norway was attaching conditions to its role and the government would express its "displeasure" at the meeting.

But government officials said Monday's talks had been "cordial".

Fragile truce

Visiting Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi said on Sunday his country would host direct talks.

"The situation in terms of security is clearly deteriorating and it is causing considerable concern to all, including the international community," he said. "However, the situation is not hopeless.

"I have the distinct feeling that we are entering a new phase in the peace process."

The Tamil Tigers and the government have observed a fragile ceasefire since 2002 but peace talks stalled in April 2003.

Tensions have risen since Mr Rajapakse was elected after he took a hard line against the Tigers during his campaign.

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

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