Sri Lanka to resume talks with LTTE if it lays down arms

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Tirumala, July 13 : After a two-year gap, Sri Lanka is ready to resume talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if it lays down arms.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Saturday at the end of his two-day pilgrimage to the Tirupati Balaji temple here that the LTTE should give up terrorist activities and come to the negotiating table in the interest of the nation.

Stressing on government's intentions, he said it was the government which had been negotiating with the LTTE for the past 20 years expecting some positive outcome every time.

Negotiations were held even in Geneva, Oslo and Japan though there were instances when the LTTE walked out of the talks, he said.

Hinting that there was a change in the mood of Tamils, he said the election of a former LTTE leader as Chief Minister of the Eastern Province was an indication of this.

On India-Sri Lanka cooperation, Rajapaksa said New Delhi had always remained helpful to his country. "The relations between the two countries, I can say, are at their best." He had great admiration for the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and considered him as the greatest of all politicians.

Rajapaksa also talked about Indian fishermen and denied of their harassment by the Sri Lankan defence forces.

It was the LTTE which was forcibly taking away their boats and using them for the smuggling of arms. He said: "We even have reports from aerial surveillance squads to substantiate this."

The two sides had six rounds of talks after the 2002 ceasefire but the rebels pulled out in 2006. The peace process received a crushing blow in January when the government scrapped the tattered ceasefire, a move that unleashed a fresh wave of violence as the military intensified its offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the north.

ANI

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