'Breakthrough' in Sri Lankan peace talks

OSLO DEC. 4. The Sri Lankan peace talks made a "breakthrough" with Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam taking up core political issues for the first time after agreeing on landmine clearance and strengthening their truce.

The first-ever formal discussion on political issues underlying the decades-long ethnic conflict had made a "breakthrough", the Sri Lankan leader of the delegation, G.L. Peiris, told presspersons today.

Both sides agreed to take up political matters during their previous round of peace talks in Thailand, but it was here that they got down to taking up the matter earnest, officials said.

Mr. Peiris, Sri Lanka's Constitutional Affairs Minister, said the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabakaran's anouncement last month that he was willing to accept regional autonomy formed the basis for talks here on Tuesday.

The current round of talks will end tomorrow. And three more monthly rounds have been scheduled till March.

Officials said the talks mainly focussed on some of the issues taken up earlier and would try to finalise a statement to be issued by Norwegian peace facilitators tomorrow at a joint press conference.

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