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 Post subject: Geneva talks on 24th and 25th of April
 Post Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:57 pm 
Sri Lanka talks date agreed

Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:32 PM BST
By Peter Apps
@ http://today.reuters.co.uk


COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka said on Friday it had agreed new dates for talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, a day after a rebel request for a postponement, as fresh violence killed a civilian.

"The dates agreed on are the 24th and 25th of April," Palitha Kohona, the head of the government peace secretariat, told Reuters.

"There had been a suggestion from the LTTE to postpone talks until May but the government was keen to hold the talks as soon as possible," he said.

More than 40 people have died in the last week in the bloodiest spell of violence since a 2002 truce, prompting fears that talks originally scheduled for April 19-21 in Switzerland would be cancelled and that the two-decade civil war would resume.

On Thursday, the LTTE said they would go to Geneva for talks, but that they wanted to postpone them a few days.

The army said the latest incident occurred just north of the northeastern port town of Trincomalee, centre of recent violence, with suspected rebels using claymore fragmentation mine to attack a vehicle carrying supplies for the military.

Two soldiers, their civilian driver and two pedestrians were wounded in the blast.

A civilian from the island's majority Sinhalese community was killed by Tamil villagers in the same district, the army said, adding tensions were high in region.

"A Sinhalese person has gone into a Tamil village," said an army spokesman. "He was harassed by the village people and killed. There is a curfew in the area."

The LTTE, whose struggle for an ethnic Tamil homeland in the island's north and east has killed more than 64,000 people deny recent attacks but few diplomats or analysts believe them.

NOT OVER YET

Sri Lanka's key donors Japan, the European Union, the United States and Norway on Friday expressed concern over the violence and urged both sides to stick to the talks schedule.

The recent attacks were the second time the island has been pushed to the brink of war this year. Two months of violence in December and January ended when the rebels agreed to come to the first direct talks with the government since 2003.

"My feeling is that this is not over yet," said a western diplomat. "Every time the Tigers agree to something there is a new condition, and it can be the same with the government. When the Tigers want something, all they know is violence."

The Tigers had been refusing to go to talks until their eastern commanders received safe passage from the government to their de facto capital in the north. They had wanted to use their own craft for transport, but have agreed to use a civilian ferry under protection from unarmed Nordic truce monitors.

At the talks, the government is likely to complain heavily about recent attacks. The Tigers will accuse the government of supporting ethnic riots against Tamils that followed a bomb blast in Trincomalee on Wednesday and of arming a breakaway rebel faction, the Karuna group.

The government denies using Karuna to attack the rebels and promised at the first round of talks in February to stop armed groups operating in their areas.


© Reuters 2006.


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