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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 11:57 GMT
Tamil Tigers in ceasefire appeal
Tamil Tiger female fighters
The Tigers have suffered serious setbacks in recent months
Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka say they are prepared to fully implement the terms of a 2002 ceasefire, although the government is pulling out of it.

The government's commitment to the ceasefire formally ends on 16 January. In practice, it has fallen apart in the last two years.

Both sides have been accused of repeatedly breaching it and also committing human rights abuses.

The Tamil Tigers have suffered major setbacks in the past 12 months.

'Shocked'

On 2 January the government gave two weeks notice of its intention to end the ceasefire.

A Sri Lankan police officer looks into the damaged vehicle of minister D.M. Dassanayake  - 8/1/08
A government minister was killed near Colombo this week

Now the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) have issued a formal response.

"We are shocked and disappointed," a statement from the new head of the Tigers' political wing, B Nadesan said.

"The GoSL [government of Sri Lanka], without any justifications, has now unilaterally withdrawn from the CFA [ceasefire agreement].

"The LTTE wishes to state that even at this juncture, it is ready to implement every clause of the CFA agreement and respect it 100%," Mr Nadesan said.

The 2002 ceasefire was brokered by Norway. Mr Nadesan also requested "that Norway should continue with its facilitation role with the support of the international community".

'We will face it'

It is not clear why it has taken the Tigers more than a week to respond to the government's ceasefire withdrawal.

A leading rebel, S Puleedevan, told Reuters news agency that "if full-scale war is thrust upon us, we will face it".

The Tigers - listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States and the European Union - also called on the international community to reconsider the bans on them.

In the past two years some 5,000 people have been killed, despite both sides having professed their commitment to the ceasefire.

The Tamil Tigers have staged some high-profile attacks, including using air power last year for the first time.

This week a government minister was killed in a bomb attack near Colombo.

But the government has driven the Tigers from their strongholds in the east of the island and has been claiming sustained successes in the north.

Leading rebels have been killed, including SP Thamilselvan who headed their political wing for years.

At least 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since it began in 1983.

The government has ruled out any more negotiations unless the Tigers lay down their arms first. It has also vowed to crush the rebels militarily.

The pace of fighting has stepped up in recent days on the frontlines that surround rebel-held territory in the north of the island where they run a civil administration.

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