December 11, 2007 / 11:38 AM / 11 years ago

Sri Lanka says no truce ahead of future peace talks

Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa (3rd L) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (R) at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo December 10, 2007. REUTERS/Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s government is unwilling to observe a truce ahead of any peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said on Tuesday.

There would be no point when previous ceasefires had been heavily breached by the rebels, the minister told a Tokyo news conference.

“We’re always maintaining our position that we are ready to talk with the LTTE ... if they wish to indulge in a more reasonable approach,” Bogollagama said.

The foreign minister and his president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, were in Tokyo for meetings with the Japanese government, a major donor to the war-torn country who this week offered to send a mediator to help get peace talks back on track.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, who seek an independent state in the north and east of the country. Fighting has intensified in recent months.

While the government has fared better than most expected in major ground fighting, few expect the military to be able to eradicate the rebels from the jungle.

Prospects for peace talks in the near future waned in November when the rebels’ political wing leader and chief negotiator was killed in a government air strike.

Bogollagama said a cross-party committee was close to announcing a new plan to devolve power to Tamils and try to resolve the conflict.

Human rights organizations including Amnesty International criticized both rebels and government this month.

Reporting by Yoko Kubota; editing by Roger Crabb

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