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Norwegian brokers meet top Tamil rebel in London
Updated: 2005-08-17 16:58

Norwegian peace brokers prepared Wednesday to hold crucial talks with a top Sri Lankan rebel negotiator in London amid stepped up violence and concerns that the assassination of Sri Lanka's foreign minister could push the island back into war, reported AP.

Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Peterson and his deputy, Vidar Helgesen, were to meet Wednesday with chief Tamil Tiger rebel peace negotiator Anton Balasingham at his London home, the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo said. Embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog declined to give details.

The Norwegians were expected to press the rebels to renounce violence in order to move the faltering peace process forward, senior officials involved in the negotiations said on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to go on the record.

The talks are the first since Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed by unidentified snipers on Friday. The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the assassination on Wednesday as a "senseless act of terrorism."

Tiger leaders have denied government accusations that they were behind the killing of Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil who was one of the strongest critics of the guerrillas' two-decade rebellion. He also spearheaded a campaign to internationally ban the rebel group.

European peace monitors have warned that a recent surge in violence could further endanger an already fragile cease-fire pact signed by the government and Tigers in 2002.

In the latest violence, four policemen were wounded Wednesday in three separate attacks by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels, military spokesman Brig. Daya Ratnayake said.

The U.N. Security Council said it expects Kadirgamar's murder will be "speedily investigated and the perpetrators, organizers and their sponsors brought to justice."

The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers should "implement fully the provisions of the cease-fire agreement, and to continue their dialogue in order to attain sustainable peace and stability in the country," it said.

The U.N. office in Colombo on Tuesday condemned vandalism at its office in the rebel heartland of Kilinochchi, where 60 people on Monday tore down U.N. flags flying at half-staff in honor of Kadirgamar.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also paid tribute to Kadirgamar and said she was impressed with how the Sri Lankan people had responded to the tragedy.

"It is the great hope of the United States that out of this tragedy people will once again commit themselves to a path to peace," the U.S. Embassy in Colombo quoted Rice as saying. "There can be no cause that is justified by terrorism and by violence."

The guerrillas began fighting in 1983 for an independent homeland in the north and east for Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The war killed nearly 65,000 people before the Norwegian-brokered truce. Subsequent peace talks stalled in June 2003 over rebel demands for more autonomy.

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