Thailand's deputy prime minister on Friday urged fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to consider talks with the government as he sought to end more than a week of political protests.
Thousands of demonstrators have surrounded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's offices in Bangkok since March 26, demanding that he dissolve his three month old government and hold snap elections.
Suthep Thaungsuban, who is also the minister in charge of security, said Thaksin had not yet responded to an earlier offer for discussions made on Wednesday.
"I want to confirm that I am ready to talk with Thaksin, I hope and dream that talks will happen," Suthep told reporters. "My goal is to negotiate to make the country and Thai people safe," he said.
But the deputy prime minister in charge of the country until Abhisit returns from the G20 economic summit in London said he would not talk directly with protest leaders who he dismissed as Thaksin's puppets.
"I don't think so because the real decision maker is Thaksin," Suthep said.
Thaksin has failed to address the crowd of demonstrators for the past two days, after making nightly video and phone speeches when the rally began.
A protest leader said Thaksin, who is living in exile to escape a conviction for corruption, had been travelling since Tuesday but would make a further address by video link on Friday evening.
Police said about 1,500 supporters of Thaksin, known as "Red Shirts", remain, in the biggest rally since Abhisit took office in December on the back of a court decision that removed Thaksin's allies from power.
Thaksin was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and his supporters accuse Abhisit of being a stooge of Thailand's powerful army.
The Red Shirts say they expect tens of thousands of people to attend a mass rally in Bangkok in a week's time echoing the street campaign by rival anti-Thaksin activists last year that helped bring Abhisit to power.
Thaksin remains hugely popular among the rural and urban poor but he is loathed by Thailand's old guard in the palace, military and bureaucracy.