B. Muralidhar Reddy
Ranil meets Rajapaksa
Government-LTTE talks in Switzerland on October 28 and 29 Wickremesinghe says main objective is to end the war
COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military on Thursday claimed that at least 478 persons, including 78 soldiers and 400 cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were killed in a five-hour battle in the Jaffna peninsula.
The news came amid an unprecedented political pact for co-operation on a national consensus on all issues, including resolution of the ethnic strife, between the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and its archrival, the United National Party.
The flare-up took place along the Forward Defence Lines in the Kilani and Muhamalai sectors on Wednesday. The casualties are expected to rise as the number of wounded claimed by both sides is over 680.
While the LTTE claimed that the battle was the result of the military attempts to "invade" its territory, the Army termed it a "defensive response to provocative actions" by the Tigers.
In spite of the continuing battle on the ground, indications so far are that the Government and the LTTE are going ahead with the proposed negotiations in Switzerland on October 28 and 29.
Elsewhere, there were reports of sporadic fighting in the Jaffna peninsula and signs of tension in the Jaffna town after reports of alleged assassination by the LTTE of three cadres of EPDP, which is working with the Government.
The former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe told a news conference here, after his party delegation held talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on their pact for a national consensus on six issues, that the UNP's main objective was to end the war and bring about a political solution to the ethnic issue.
His party's policy-making body would debate on Monday the offer made by Mr. Rajapaksa for a coalition government with the SLFP.
Views within the UNP appear divided on whether it should join the Government or extend cooperation from outside.