[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 13:43 GMT
Sri Lanka foes agree to meeting
Sri Lankan troops patrolling in Colombo
Both sides accuse each other of violating the ceasefire
Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels have agreed to hold talks in Switzerland to shore up a shaky truce.

Disagreement over a talks venue and a recent surge in violence have raised fears of a return to war in Sri Lanka.

Geneva is the likely venue for talks due to start in February, Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim said after meeting both sides.

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Colombo says the agreement is a breakthrough but many obstacles still lie ahead.

Focus on ceasefire

Both sides have accused each other of violating a ceasefire deal struck in 2002.

The Tigers allege the government is backing paramilitary groups, while Colombo demands the rebels end attacks on its soldiers.

MAJOR SRI LANKA ATTACKS
12 January: Nine sailors die in mine blast near Vavuniya
7 January: 13 sailors killed off coast of Trincomalee
2 January: Five Tamil youths killed in Trincomalee
27 December: Jaffna mine kills 11 soldiers
23 December: Mine blast kills 13 sailors in Mannar district
6 December: Jaffna mine kills seven troops
4 December: Seven troops die in Jaffna mine blast

Mr Solheim has been in Sri Lanka holding talks with Tamil Tiger leaders and the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

"Both sides agreed there is a need to come together to decide how the ceasefire agreement can be implemented in a better manner," Mr Solheim said after meeting Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Tigers had originally said they would meet the government only if Norway were the venue.

A rebel spokesman said on Wednesday that the forthcoming talks would focus only on strengthening the existing ceasefire.

"On our part we have pledged that there will be no acts of violence," the Tigers' chief negotiator Anton Balasingham said.

But he warned Colombo must do likewise if the Tigers' promise is to hold, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr Balasingham told the agency the Tigers had been involved in some "military action" but he blamed most recent violence on "peoples' militias".

President Rajapakse confirmed the government would attend the talks after meeting Mr Solheim on the envoy's return to Colombo.

"It is a good sign for the country," the president told the Associated Press.

Decades of war

Violence has been steadily rising since the election of Mr Rajapakse in November, threatening the four-year-old truce.

Erik Solheim with Mahinda Rajapakse
Mr Solheim saw Mr Rajapakse before meeting Tiger leaders

At least 120 people - including about 80 soldiers and sailors and many civilians - have died in the upsurge of violence since early December.

The attacks on the military have been blamed on the rebels, who deny involvement.

Tamil Tiger supporters say more than 40 Tamils have been killed by the security forces in a series of attacks since the start of December. Others blame some of those deaths on the rebels or other armed groups.

The Tamil Tigers want a separate state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

More than 60,000 people died during two decades of conflict with Sri Lanka's security forces.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific