With peace broker Norway failing to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the two sides, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse is seeking a direct deal with Tamil Tigers, seeking an end to the violence in return for containing a breakaway rebel faction.
Rajapakse sent a message to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam through Tamil newspaper Sudaroli's editor N Vidyatharan and its publisher E Saravanapavan, the local Sunday Leader reported.
"Both the LTTE and the army are preparing for war and the people and I are caught in the middle. We don't have to work through Norway, why don't we deal directly," the President was quoted as asking. It said the editor confirmed he had a meeting with Rajapakse, but declined to discuss his talks.
Part of Rajapakse's offer, according to the report, is a pledge to contain a renegade rebel commander in the island's east, V Muralitharan, who is better known as Colonel Karuna. Karuna has been blamed for attacks against civilians and the Tigers since his split from the LTTE in March 2004. Rebel leaders say he is working for the government to disrupt their operations.
"The President had also said he will ensure the Karuna group also does not carry out any attacks during the period," the Leader reported.
Rajapakse's initiative comes amid an upsurge in violence that has seen more than 815 people killed since his election in November and threatens to derail a ceasefire signed by a previous government in 2002. Scandinavians monitoring the truce have said that the ceasefire, signed in 2002, is only on paper.
Norway, which failed to bring the two sides together for talks earlier this month, is expected to meet on Thursday with other truce observers to decide the future of the ceasefire monitoring mission.
The Tigers have thrown the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission into crisis by demanding the removal of monitors from European Union nations Finland, Denmark and Sweden after the EU branded the LTTE a terrorist group last month.
The SLMM said it had been told by the Tigers that they would extend the one-month period they sought to remove European Union member state nationals from the mission. The Tigers now want the transition in three months while Norway wants six months to effect the recomposition of the SLMM.
Complete coverage: The war in Lanka