Talks key to halting Sri Lanka’s slide to full-scale war: analysts

Sri Lanka could slide back into civil war early in the New Year unless the government and Tamil Tiger rebels agree to meet face-to-face and save their fragile truce, according to analysts and mediators. Sri Lanka could slide back into civil war early in the New Year unless the government and Tamil Tiger rebels agree to meet face-to-face and save their fragile truce, according to analysts and mediators. President Mahinda Rajapakse, who won November polls promising a brand new peace process that would have sidelined Norwegian peacebrokers, has toned down his hawkish pre-election rhetoric and invited Oslo to continue its role.

But analysts and diplomats warn the ceasefire in effect since February 2002 is close to collapse.

The most serious warning came late last week from the head of the Norwegian-led ceasefire monitoring panel, Hagrup Haukland.

He said “war may not be far away” in the tropical Indian Ocean island nation where at least 83 people were killed last month despite the truce.

The upsurge in violence has also overshadowed efforts to recover from the December 2004 tsunami that killed 31,000 people and left one million homeless.

Rajapakse told reporters last week he was kee