Fresh clashes Monday between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger separatists have killed at least 20 rebel fighters and left one soldier dead.

Sri Lankan military officials say the main clashes occurred on the turbulent Jaffna peninsula. Three more tiger rebels were killed during clashes in the northeastern Mannar district, where one soldier was injured.

There is no way to independently confirm the number of deaths or the cause of the fighting.

The clashes come despite a weekend offer from Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse to halt a government offensive if the rebels return to peace talks.

Fighting has recently intensified between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels despite a 2002 cease-fire agreement.

Many Sri Lankan politicians and foreign diplomats have expressed hope the 24-year conflict can be resolved through negotiations.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.