Tamil Tigers Head to Sri Lanka Government Peace Talks

Tamil rebel negotiators left their northern stronghold Tuesday for talks with the government aimed at ending resurgent violence that has killed 2,000 combatants and civilians in the island nation this year.

The four-member team headed by the rebels' political chief left the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi for the country's international airport in a government military helicopter, rebel spokesman Daya Master said.

They were set to fly later Tuesday to Geneva for weekend talks.

The conflict over Tamil demands for a self-ruled homeland flared up in 1983 and 65,000 people were killed until a cease-fire that now has all but disintegrated.

Hans Brattskar, Norway's ambassador to Colombo, accompanied the rebel negotiators, who had earlier expressed security concerns about traveling outside rebel territory.

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Officials of the ruling coalition's Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the main opposition United National Party signed an agreement Monday in which they agreed to cooperate in pursuing a peace deal.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, who have fought to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, have long said that the bickering between the two main parties in Parliament has made a political settlement impossible.