Colombo, August 20:

LTTE says talks to be held in Oslo soon

Sri Lanka’s government is keen to have early talks to salvage a truce with Tamil Tiger rebels after both sides agreed to a review of the ceasefire, peacebroker Norway said today. Norway stepped up efforts to arrange the first high-level talks in 30 months between Colombo and the Tigers as the ceasefire came under renewed pressure following the assassination on August 12 of the foreign minister. “The government is keen to have the talks as soon as possible,” said Norwegian embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog. “We are in consultations with the parties to finalise a date and a venue.” The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said yesterday the truce talks would be held in Oslo “in a couple of weeks”. “The LTTE’s theoretician (Anton Balasingham) revealed the talks, facilitated by the Norwegians, would be held in Oslo within the next couple of weeks,” the Tamilnet website said. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen had proposed the talks during a meeting with Balasingham at his home in London on Wednesday on his way back from attending Kadirgamar’s funeral in Colombo.

Scandinavian truce monitors had warned the murder of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was a major setback for the truce that took effect February 23, 2002 and could jeopardise the entire peace process. The government has blamed the LTTE for the killing but it has denied responsibility. President Kumaratunga had written to Norway’s Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik calling for talks with the LTTE to review the truce after Kadirgamar’s assassination.