10:33 PM

Tamil Tigers are open to restarting peace talks

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers are open to restarting peace talks with the government, a senior official with the separatists has said.

Balasingham Nadesan, the Tigers political chief, made the statement to the Associated Press news agency as the army continued an offensive in the north aimed at crushing the group.

"We have always been ready for peace talks, but the Sri Lankan government has been always insisting on a military solution," he said.

The two sides have been battling for more than 25 years over the Tamil Tigers' demand for an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east of the Indian Ocean island nation.

The military push deep into the separatists' heartland in recent months has forced the Tamil Tigers to retreat from vast areas they once controlled, and the government has said it expects to finish off the group in the coming months.

However, Balasingham Nadesan said the group did not believe it was facing imminent defeat.

"We have made several strategic withdrawals in order to save the lives of our people and maintain the strength of our forces. When the time and place is conducive, we will regain the land we have lost," he said.

--- aljazeera ---

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