Sri Lanka president calls for talks to avert all-out civil war

Nov 28, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Tuesday offered fresh talks with Tamil Tigers to avert a return to all-out civil war as the top guerrilla leader wrote off the Norwegian-backed peace process. President Mahinda Rajapakse, currently visiting India, said he was ready to have direct talks with Velupillai Prabhakaran, the elusive leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“I always tell him why do you need others to get involved in this — let us talk,” Rajapakse said in an interview with India’s New Delhi Television.

Prabhakaran, 52, accused the Colombo government of waging war on Tamils under the cover of a 2002 peace agreement.

The 2.5 million minority were left “with no other option but an independent state,” Prabhakaran declared in an annual speech Monday evening.

Asked if Sri Lanka was at war now, defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said in Colombo the government was committed to peace. “We are pursuing peace … But we will respond if we are attacked,” he said.

“We want a clarification from the Norwegians if the peace process is still on.”

The demand was put in writing to Oslo — which brokered the ceasefire agreement in 2002 — along with a letter to