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Indian PM Holds Out Olive Branch to Rebel Groups


India's prime minister has invited rebel groups in the country's restive northeast for talks to end decades of conflict in the region. Manmohan Singh made the offer on a three-day tour of the region amid tight security.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made his offer of talks to rebel groups Sunday in the northeast as he visited Manipur state, the first stop of his tour.

"This is an open invitation to all those young men and young women who have taken to arms to give up this path and work with us to bring about peace and prosperity in all the northeastern states," he said.

Mr. Singh began his three-day tour of the northeast Saturday by promising to review an anti-insurgency law that gives Indian troops sweeping powers to search, arrest and shoot suspected militants. The law is deeply resented by locals, who accuse soldiers of overstepping their authority.

Mr. Singh is also pledging to address economic development in the northeastern states in order to promote peace.

The northeast is one of India's most underdeveloped regions, comprising seven states that are inhabited by scores of different ethnic and tribal groups and about two dozen rebel groups seeking some form of autonomy or independence. Many accuse both the federal and state governments of neglecting the region's economy while plundering its rich natural resources.

Mr. Singh is also visiting the state of Assam, where in early October a spate of bomb attacks and killings left scores of people dead.

Mr. Singh says the government has received positive signals about possible talks from the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam, one of the most influential rebel groups in the region.

Decades of regional rebellions have killed more than 45,000 people.

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