Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that his troops were only taking defensive action against aggression by the Tamil Tiger rebels in the northeastern conflict zones, officials said on Wednesday.
Addressing a delegation of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) on the ongoing military conflict in the north and east provinces late on Tuesday, Rajapaksa told the UNP that he was committed to the process of direct negotiations brokered by the Norwegian peace facilitators.
The president was meeting the main opposition after five days of fierce fighting between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government forces in the northern Jaffna peninsula.
The security forces say they had successfully repulsed attacks by the Tigers. The Media Center for National Security (MCNS) here said that some 90 troops and 250 rebel cadres had been killed in fighting up to Tuesday.
The MCNS spokesman Upali Rajapakse said that the air force had taken identified Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) positions in the rebel held parts of the northern province on Wednesday to carry out more air raids. No figures of casualties were available.
Defence sources said there had been a lull in fighting in the north on Tuesday with security forces being able to consolidate in most areas.
The rebels on Monday blamed the government of bombing a children's home killing some 61 under aged children mostly girls. The government said the target was a rebel training camp.
The fighting has endangered the Norwegian backed peace process, which came to be stalled in April 2003 after six rounds of direct negotiations.
Efforts since then to revive the talks had taken a severe beating due to the escalation of violence blamed on both parties.