NATIONAL

From exchange of fire to pleasantries

NAKORN PATHOM (Thailand) OCT. 31. Top Tiger rebels today swapped battle fatigues for suits and neckties, as the second round of talks between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam started here today.

V. Karuna, eastern military commander and highest-ranked fighter in the LTTE's team, was dressed in a black two-piece suit; while the political wing leader, S. P. Tamilchelvam, was in a dark blue suit.

sssThe changed composition of the rebel negotiating team reflected the manner in which the talks have evolved since the first round last month. Col. Karuna's entry in the rebel team was matched by the inclusion of a senior military officer, Shantha Kottegoda, who led Colombo's operations to bisect the rebel-held northern Sri Lanka.

Two years ago, Col. Karuna's fighters stopped the military advances of the Sri Lankan forces led by Maj. Gen. Kottegoda.

And today, after the formal exchange of pleasantries, the two, dressed in civvies, were here to do some hard talking on sensitive military matters such as relocating the high security zones.

The most casually dressed delegate was the T-shirt clad leader of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, Rauff Hakeem — person who is perhaps under the greatest political pressure.

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