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Lanka vows talks despite sinking of navy craft

Sri Lankan Government has pledged to continue talks with Tamil Tiger rebels despite the killing of eight sailors in a suicide blast.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 12:55 IST

Sri Lanka's government on Wednesday pledged to continue talks with Tamil Tiger rebels despite the killing of eight sailors in a suicide blast and fears the island could slip back to full scale war.

Colombo's chief peace negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva said Sri Lanka's government will go ahead with talks next month at a venue in Switzerland despite Saturday's suspected Tiger sinking of a navy gunboat.

"The government (is) committed towards a negotiated settlement despite (the) recent provocative action," de Silva said in talks with the Swiss ambassador here Bernadino Regazzoni.

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels blew up a trawler together with six of their own men as a navy gunboat approached them, sinking both craft and also killing eight sailors.

The Swiss envoy was meeting with de Silva to discuss logistics for the next round of talks, tentatively scheduled for April 19 to 21.

"The minister and the ambassador discussed ways and means of making necessary arrangements for the second round of talks scheduled to be held in the third week of April in Geneva," de Silva's office said in a statement.

Diplomatic sources said the talks might be delayed for logistical reasons.

Sri Lanka's peace broker Norway was also meeting with the top Tamil Tiger peace negotiator Anton Balasingham in London on Wednesday.

Norway's International Development Minister and peace envoy Erik Solheim and Balasingham will prepare the groundwork for the meeting between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The two sides held a first meeting at Celigny, near Geneva in February aimed at shoring up a fragile ceasefire in place since 2002 and preventing a return to civil war amid flaring violence.

The ceasefire negotiations are separate from the Sri Lanka peace talks that have been suspended since April 2003.

The LTTE rebels have been fighting for autonomy in the northeastern part of the island for more than 30 years, in a conflict that has claimed at least 60,000 lives since 1972.