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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Sri Lanka election rally blast
Election posters
Violence has increased in the run-up to elections
At least 10 people have been killed and 35 injured in an explosion at an election rally in northern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan premier
The prime minister ruled out further mediation
The rally - by the ruling People's Alliance - was taking place at a bus station in the town of Medawachchi, some 230 km north of the capital Colombo.

The authorities say it is the work of a suicide bomber, who was trying to get as close as possible to a junior minister, Tissa Karaliyadda.

The minister was not injured.

Parliamentary elections due on 10 October have been preceded by an often violent campaign.

On Monday, a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed 24 people, including a ruling party candidate, at a rally in the north-east.

That attack was blamed on the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Mediation efforts

The latest violence came as the Sri Lankan Government confirmed that it was abandoning a Norwegian-brokered peace initiative to end the long-running conflict

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that olive branches held out to the separatists had been misunderstood.

Let the Norwegians do what they want, all that is in the past

Prime Minister Wickremanayake
"We want peace, but peace cannot be achieved by one party. . . So we have decided to shut the door," he said.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said late on Wednesday that Sri Lanka would pursue the military option to defeat the Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

Oslo nominated a special envoy, Erik Solheim, who held several rounds of talks with the government and with London-based Tamil separatist leaders.

But in August, a devolution plan, brokered by Norway, which would effectively have turned Sri Lanka into a federal state, was abandoned as it was clear it would not gain the required two-thirds majority in the country's parliament.

Prepared to help

Erik Solheim told the Reuters news agency that he still hoped he could play a role - despite the latest statements from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan government soldier
Fighting in the north has put paid to peace efforts
"If the parties still want our assistance we are prepared to pursue the peace initiative. We are convinced that it is possible to find a peaceful solution to the conflict," he said.

Last month, the government launched a series of offensives to gain ground lost to the separatists earlier this year in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Correspondents say that the ruling People's Alliance coalition is anxious to improve its standing ahead of parliamentary elections on 10 October.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | South Asia
Olive branch to Tamil Tigers
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Norway role in Sri Lanka peace plan
26 Jan 00 | South Asia
Norway in Sri Lanka peace effort
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