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Talks should be held as scheduled: Govt

The separatist Tamil Tigers have sought a postponement of the three-days talks scheduled to start next Wednesday in Geneva.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 12:20 IST

Sri Lanka's government and Tamil Tiger rebels on Friday appeared headed for a conflict over when to hold the next round of their Geneva peace talks.

The separatist Tamil Tigers have sought a postponement of the three-days talks scheduled to start next Wednesday, saying they must hold a crucial meeting of their top leaders in Sri Lanka before attending the negotiations in Switzerland.

The government, however, insisted Friday that the talks be held as scheduled.

"As far as we are concerned, we are ready go to Geneva and we feel it should be held as scheduled," government minister, Keheliya Rambukwella said.

The Geneva talks come amid some of the worst bloodshed since Norway brokered a cease-fire between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam four years ago, raising fears of a return to civil war.

Since Monday, at least 40 people have died in violence blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, a splinter group that broke away from the Tigers and sectarian fighting between Tamils and the country's majority ethnic Sinhalese.

Rebel spokesman Daya Master said the Tigers had asked to postpone the talks because the dates clash with a meeting of their central committee starting this weekend and running through the following Saturday in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi, northeast Sri Lanka.

The request was made during a meeting Thursday between Ulf Henricsson, a top European ceasefire monitor, and SP Tamilselvan, the rebels' political wing leader in Kilinochchi.

Peace broker Norway said on Friday that it was still making efforts to see that the talks are held on schedule.

"At this stage we can't make any further comment except refer to our earlier call that both the parties meet in Geneva as scheduled," Norwegian Embassy spokesman, Erik Ivo Nurnberg, said.

At least 65,000 people are believed to have been killed in the two-decade conflict before the 2002 ceasefire.