Sri Lankan president ready for peace talks amid fighting

June 1, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president is ready to resume peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels even as security forces are locked in combat with the guerrillas, a presidential spokesman said Friday. President Mahinda Rajapakse would enter negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if the guerrillas agreed to resume where they left off in October 2006, spokesman Chandrapala Liyanage told AFP.

“I am ready to talk even today in the present circumstances,” the president was quoted as saying.

“I am a total democrat and I believe in a peaceful negotiated settlement.”

The Tigers last week insisted that they will not resume the Norwegian-brokered peace talks unless the Sri Lankan government halted military action against the guerrillas.

Rajapakse said he had not ordered troops to enter rebel-held Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu regions and was still abiding by the Oslo-arranged truce.

“The ceasefire agreement has been violated 8,000 to 9,000 times, but we have still not given up the ceasefire,” Rajapakse said.

Officials private admit that the truce is all but dead.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in a new wave of violence since Rajapakse came to po