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LTTE vague on chopper, consults Norway

by Ranga Jayasuriya

The LTTE is to seek a meeting with the Norwegian peace facilitators before it decides on the government's seaplane offer to transport Eastern Tiger leadership to the Wanni.

LTTE spokesman Daya Master said the Tigers viewed the offer in a positive light, but stressed the need to meet the Norwegians to extract a security guarantee for LTTE cadres before taking the final decision.

"We need to discuss technical and logistical issues and also security concerns of our commanders," he said.

The spokesman said the LTTE would make a request for a meeting with the Norwegians this week, which would focus exclusively on modalities of the transport.

These remarks by the LTTE spokesman came amid reports from the Wanni that the Tigers have taken the government's offer of a seaplane.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had turned down a request made by the Japanese Embassy for a meeting between Tiger Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and visiting special Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi who arrived in the country last night.

Instead, the LTTE political chief S. P. Thamilselvan had offered to meet the visiting Japanese envoy. "Given the current security context, it is not feasible to arrange a meeting with the leader," the LTTE spokesman said.

The government's defence affairs spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the government was awaiting a formal response from the LTTE over the seaplane offer.

The government has ruled out theatre to theatre air transport of the LTTE by the Air Force helicopters, but said all other options were open.

The seaplane owned by the national carrier, SriLankan could transport ten passengers without luggage or eight passengers with luggage.

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