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Tamil rebel leader offers talks without preconditions+.

COLOMBO, Nov. 27 Kyodo

The leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels said Monday the rebel group is ready for ''unconditional talks'' on a peaceful settlement to the civil war raging in the north and east of the country.

''We are not imposing any preconditions for peace talks, yet we insist on the creation of a cordial atmosphere and conditions of normalcy conducive for peace negotiations,'' Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), said in his annual ''Hero's Day'' message broadcast over the clandestine ''Voice of Tigers'' radio.

Prabhakaran said Norway, which is acting as a mediator between the government and the LTTE, has proposed several confidence-building proposals that should be discussed by the two sides.

''If the government takes the initiative, we will respond positively,'' he said.

He also requested the removal of economic embargoes on rebel-held areas but said this was not a precondition of talks.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga said after parliamentary elections in October that she was ready to seek a negotiated settlement but would not stop military operations against the LTTE.

In a significant departure from previous years' messages on ''Hero's Day,'' dedicated to LTTE fighters who have died in the conflict, Prabhakaran did not insist on a withdrawal of government troops before discussions.

The LTTE has been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. An estimated 60,000 people have died in the conflict.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 4, 2000
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