Sri Lanka
Rajapakse renews talks invitation to Tamil rebels
Feb 3, 2007 - 10:44:33 PM

Colombo, Feb 3 - Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse Saturday renewed his invitation to the Tamil rebels to return to the negotiating table in a bid to end the country's two-decade-old ethnic conflict.

Rajapakse renewed his call during a rare visit to a coastal area in the eastern province liberated from the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - during a three-month long offensive.

He called the rebels to lay down arms and resume negotiations as the political parties in the south of the country were in the process of reaching a political consensus to resolve the ethnic conflict.

'I do not believe in a military solution. I expect to end this problem - with a political solution,' he said.

The president visited Vakarai area, 280 km east of the capital, that was liberated last month and thereafter visited Sampur area, further north which was captured in August last year.

The recapture of the area was a major setback to the rebels as they were using the coastal areas to transport men and material between the north and eastern province.

The renewed call for the rebels to return to talks comes on the eve of the country's 59th independence day celebrations.

Security has been intensified for the celebrations to be held Sunday in the Galle Face green, a seafront close to the president's office here.

During a security search operation in the capital, security forces detected a claymore mine close to a stadium where over 1,000 soldiers are stationed.

Sri Lanka's Norwegian-backed peace process has been at a standstill since September last year when the rebels and the government delegation met.

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