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THE WEEK AHEAD

JAFFNA : Sri Lankans to Parley

October 11, 1994

Sri Lanka's government and Tamil insurgents meet face to face this week for the first time in four years to see if they can negotiate an end to the island nation's murderous ethnic strife.

More than 34,000 people have perished in the 11-year-old struggle by armed militants from the Hindu Tamil minority to carve out an independent homeland in the north and east of the predominantly Buddhist island.

A four-member delegation from the Socialist-led coalition that came to power in August is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Jaffna, a rebel stronghold in the north, to prepare for formal talks. Earlier this month, die-hard rebels exploded a mine under a merchant vessel. Observers say the hard-liners want to prove that negotiations are impossible without a cease-fire. But Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga, after discussions with her generals, has refused to order one.

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