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LTTE negotiators leave for Geneva talks

The four-member team headed by the Tamil Tigers' political wing chief Suppiah Tamilselvan left the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2006 12:42 IST

Tamil rebel negotiators left their northern stronghold on Tuesday for peace talks with the government, a spokesman said, a day after Sri Lanka's main political parties pledged to cooperate to settle the country's renewed conflict.

The four-member team headed by the rebels' political wing chief Suppiah Tamilselvan left the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi for the country's international airport just outside the capital Colombo in a government military helicopter, rebel spokesman Daya Master said.

They were set to fly later on Tuesday to Geneva, Switzerland, for weekend talks that are taking place amid renewed violence in the island nation.

About 2,000 combatants and civilians have been killed this year, all but disintegrating a 2002 Norway-brokered ceasefire.

The conflict over Tamil demands for a self-ruled homeland flared up in 1983 and 65,000 people were killed until the ceasefire.

Hans Brattskar, Norway's ambassador to Colombo, accompanied the rebel negotiators who had earlier expressed security concerns about traveling outside rebel territory amid the recent increased violence.

On Monday, officials of the ruling coalition's Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the main Opposition, United National Party, signed an agreement in which the UNP agreed to support the government "in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict while opposing terrorism in all its manifestations."

The parties together control 125 seats in Sri Lanka's 225-member Parliament, and their consensus is vital to muster a two-thirds majority to push through any constitutional reforms that would allow power sharing with minority groups.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, who have fought to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, have long said that the bickering between the two main parties in Parliament has made a political settlement impossible.

First Published: Oct 24, 2006 12:31 IST