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Talks survive Tiger jail jolt

Nakorn Pathon (Thailand), Nov. 1 (Reuters): Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels ended a second day of peace talks to end two decades of war today by agreeing to boost security measures in the volatile east of the island.

The negotiations at a palm-lined resort west of the Thai capital, Bangkok, went ahead smoothly even though there had been worries because a Colombo court yesterday had sentenced the leader of the rebels, in absentia, to 200 years in jail.

“The parties agreed to a set of measures to improve the security situation, inter-ethnic cooperation and respect for human rights in the North and Eastern Provinces,” a statement from the Norwegian government said.

Norway has been brokering the peace bid to end the civil war that has killed 64,000 people, and helped the two sides put a truce in place in February.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for a separate state in the north and east for the mostly Hindu Tamils, who it says are discriminated against by the island’s mostly Buddhist Sinhala majority.

Communal clashes killed about a dozen people in the east last month, raising concerns about the durability of the ceasefire. The statement said “the parties agreed to establish direct communications between the commanders” of the Tigers and the government’s Special Task Force, a paramilitary force based in the east.

“The parties agreed to establish a process of regular consultations between LTTE leaders and Muslim political leaders,” it said. “The parties further agreed to remove any impediments to the pursuit of traditional economic activities of the Tamil and Muslim communities, such as fishing, farming and trading.”

The two sides met directly for the first time in seven years last month, and the current negotiations will end on Sunday.

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