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Since 1st March, 1999
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Tigers pull out of disarmament panel

Nakorn Pathom (Thailand), Jan. 7 (Reuters): Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers talked peace with the government today to end two decades of ethnic war, but blasted the island’s military for demands that the rebels disarm immediately.

Anton Balasingham, the chief negotiator for the LTTE, said a decision by the rebels to pull out of a special committee on de-escalation in protest against the demand to disarm would not harm ongoing talks in Thailand.

“The peace talks are going on very well, there is no crisis. Both sides are engaging in constructive and cordial talks,” Balasingham said at the end of a second day of negotiations at a resort on the edge of Bangkok.

“There is no suspicion or fear between the two delegations, the problem arises with the armed forces,” he said of the Norwegian-brokered talks aimed at ending a war that has killed 64,000.

The army, in response to a rebel demand that the military allow displaced Tamils return to their homes inside government-controlled zones, had said last month that the Tigers would have to begin disarming in return, something the LTTE says is not negotiable right now.

Balasingham said in protest the Tigers would not participate in a committee set up at a previous round of peace talks to demilitarise the north and east of the island. “It is defunct,” Balasingham said of the committee.

Chief government negotiator G.L. Peiris said earlier today that the issue had been side-stepped when the two sides agreed to delay plans to resettle inside the security areas, and instead first resettle displaced Tamils in other areas.

He said the talks had also centred on ways to improve human rights.

“We decided to deal with the problem in a sensible way — to deal with the things that can be immediately solved,” Peiris said, adding efforts would focus first on resettling people in non-military areas.

He said a timeframe on demining and providing returnees with basic needs would be set before the current round of talks ended on Thursday.

The separatist war drove more than one million people from their homes, many of which are now destroyed or in heavily mined areas.

Peiris said human rights issues were discused for several hours and that a special subcommittee made up of four women from each side would be set up.

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