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British official to visit Tamil Tigers' stronghold

The chairman of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee, Paul Murphy, has already met Lankan officials to discuss peace process.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2006 12:03 IST

A former British Cabinet minister closely associated with the Northern Ireland peace process will hold talks with Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels in the guerrillas' northern stronghold on Thursday, a British High Commission official said.

Paul Murphy, who arrived in Sri Lanka Tuesday, was the Cabinet minister responsible for Northern Irish affairs between 2002 and 2005, and was closely involved in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The official, who cannot be named because of embassy regulations, confirmed that Murphy will on Thursday visit Kilinochchi, the de facto rebel capital.

The decision to send Murphy to Sri Lanka, a former British colony, was taken following a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in August on ways Britain could support a Norwegian-facilitated peace process.

Murphy has already met this week with Sri Lankan officials to discuss the peace process.

Norwegian peace efforts that led to a ceasefire in 2002 between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels face huge hurdles.

Increasing violence has all but shattered the truce, with near-daily killings. Both sides refuse to budge from their positions.

The rebels want a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority, while the government says regional autonomy is the maximum it will give.

Murphy, who is currently the chairman of the British Intelligence and Security Committee, is being accompanied by Christopher MacCabe, the British joint secretary of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat.

First Published: Nov 15, 2006 12:03 IST