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Sri Lanka Rebels, Government End Breakthrough Peace Talks - 2002-11-03

Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels and the government have wrapped up a second round of peace talks, in Thailand, to end a 19-year civil war. The negotiations achieved breakthroughs on political, economic and military issues.

Ending four days of talks here in Thailand Sunday, the parties to Sri Lanka's 19-year war announced they had made more progress than expected. This second round was only supposed to deal with humanitarian issues, but the government and rebels say they also tackled political and military issues.

The two sides will set up three joint committees, one to study power-sharing, another to deal with rebuilding and refugees and a third for military de-escalation and de-mining in the war-torn north and east of the country.

Chief Tamil rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham said negotiations are on a fast-track and the rebels will drop their demand for an interim administration for the time being. This is the second major concession by the rebels. At the first round of talks in September, the Tamil Tigers gave up their demand for independence.

Nearly 65,000 people have died in the Tamil rebels struggle against domination by Sri Lanka's Singhalese majority.

These are the first peace talks in seven years and followed a Norwegian brokered cease-fire in February.