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Lanka pardon for deserters

Colombo, March 4 (Reuters): Sri Lanka will offer amnesty to about 51,000 deserters who fled army ranks during a 19-year ethnic war with Tamil Tiger rebels, an official said today.

The government has begun peace talks with the rebels to end the war and is finding it easier to hold together an army of 120,000 that saw soldiers flee during years of bloody battles.

The deserters have been blamed for a rise in violent crime and the amnesty will help authorities control the situation, military spokesman Brig. Sanath Karunaratne said.

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