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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK

World: South Asia

Sri Lanka peace talks under fire

A relative grieves for one of the victims of Saturday's attack

Several hardline groups representing the majority Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka have criticised efforts to renew peace talks with Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

The National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) said in a statement it would organise demonstrations from Wednesday to call for the defeat of the Tigers through war.

The statement follows the massacre of more than 50 Sinhalese villagers in eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday - blamed on the Tigers.

The organisation said it was against peace talks with the guerrillas and would not tolerate foreign mediation to solve the country's conflict.

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels attacked three villages, hacking their victims to death with machetes and knives.

Officials believe the attacks were probably in retaliation for the deaths of 21 Tamil civilians earlier in the week.

The Sri Lankan air force was blamed for their deaths, although the government denied that it had targeted civilians.

It later said they may have been killed by accident.

Amnesty condemns killings

The killings on Saturday have been condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International .

Amnesty said the incident appeared to represent a return to the large-scale attacks on civilians from the Sinhala and Muslim communities in the areas bordering the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Amnesty had earlier voiced its concern to the government over the deaths of the 21 Tamil civilians in air raids, questioning whether proper precautions were being taken to safeguard civilians in war zones.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east since 1983.

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