Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday said he is ready to resume peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels even as heavy fighting raged in the island's embattled north-east.
Rajapakse will enter into negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) provided the guerrillas agree to resume from where they left off in October 2006, his spokesman Chandrapala Liyanage said.
"I am ready to talk even today in the present circumstances," the president was quoted as saying. "I am a total democrat and I believe in a peaceful negotiated settlement."
Rajapakse said controversial proposals unveiled by his party earlier last month were not the final solution to the drawn out ethnic conflict and expressed his willingness to go along with a consensus in the country.
He also noted that the provincial council system set up in line with the 1987 Indo-Lanka peace accord had failed and there should be some new thinking on politically ending the bloodshed.
The Tigers last week insisted that they will not resume the peace talks unless the Sri Lankan government halted military action. Sri Lanka's military has claimed making heavy inroads into rebel-held territory in the island's east.
Rajapakse, however, said he had not ordered troops into rebel-held Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu regions in the island's north and was still abiding by the Oslo-arranged truce despite it being violated by both sides.
"The ceasefire agreement has been violated 8,000 to 9,000 times, but we have still not given up the ceasefire," he said.
His officials had also said that Colombo was keen to have a new ceasefire agreement.