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Lanka to make best use of Geneva talks: Official

The talks, aimed at strengthening the Norway-backed ceasefire, will be the first direct parleys between the two sides since March 2003.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 11:14 IST

The Sri Lankan government will endeavour to make full use of the Geneva talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, the head of the government peace delegation said on Monday.

Health Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva, who will lead the government team at the Geneva talks, said prior to his departure: "We are hoping to make the best use of the opportunity in order to try and achieve lasting peace in the country."

De Silva and his team comprising three more cabinet ministers departed for Geneva, where talks will be held February 22-23 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

The talks aimed at strengthening the Norway-backed ceasefire will be the first direct parleys between the two sides since March 2003.

De Silva said the talks would be approached with an open mind in keeping with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's thinking.

LTTE is approaching the talks with a view to getting the government's consent to fully comply with the February 2002 accord, which needs dismantling of the paramilitary groups who they say are operating in the north and east provinces with the blessings of the government troops.

The government accuses LTTE of carrying out murders, thereby violating the ceasefire, and wants LTTE to stop resorting to violence.

Though the talks would be limited to the truce, the government hopes they would lead the way to direct negotiations toward the ultimate settlement of the drawn out separatist armed conflict that has claimed over 64,000 lives since the 1980s.

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 11:14 IST