Norwegian envoy meets Sri Lankan officials in effort to end peace talks deadlock
Mon October 2, 2006 11:36 EDT .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Norwegian envoy met top Sri Lankan officials Monday in a fresh attempt to end a seven-month deadlock in peace talks, while the government reported new fighting overnight between troops and separatist rebels.
Jon Hanssen-Bauer held separate meetings with top government negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the chief of the government's peace secretariat Palitha Kohona, officials said. He was due to travel to Tamil Tigers' northern stronghold of Kilinochchi on Tuesday for talks with the rebel leadership, they said.
It was the latest diplomatic effort to restart peace talks _ which were last held in February in Geneva _ and end renewed violence that has left at least 1,000 combatants and civilians dead in recent months.
``We talked about how the next round of peace talks could be initiated,'' Kohona told The Associated Press.
Kohona said Hanssen-Bauer ``demonstrated a degree of optimism'' that he could bring both sides to the negotiating table soon, but declined to give more details.
The government had previously said it wants a personal commitment from the rebels' reclusive leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, to end all violence before any talks.
Norway brokered a cease-fire in 2002, but the accord has unraveled during recent months of fighting.
Following the peace talks in February, a second round slated for April was canceled after each side blamed the other for rising violence.
Meanwhile, the military said government troops and separatist rebels exchanged gunfire overnight in eastern Sri Lanka.
Tamil Tiger rebels attacked an army post in Vavunathivu in the eastern Batticaloa district Sunday night, said a spokesman at the Media Center for National Security who spoke on condition of anonymity due to agency policy.
He said soldiers repulsed the insurgent attack. No casualties were reported.
Separately on Monday, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot and killed a police officer in the east. The officer was gunned down while on his way to assume duties at the Pottuvil police station in Ampara district, the spokesman said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
The Tigers _ formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam _ have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils following decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese-dominated state.
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Published: Mon Oct 2 12:22:01 EDT 2006