Cease-fire stirs Sri Lanka's hope

Saturday, February 23, 2002

VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's government and separatist rebels signed a cease-fire deal Friday, renewing hopes for peace in a ravaged tropical paradise where 65,000 people have been killed in 18 years of terrorism and government retaliation.

The sunny island off India's southern tip has been ripped apart by one of the world's worst terrorist campaigns. The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate country in the north and east for minority Tamils, who are mostly Hindu. They say they cannot prosper among the majority Sinhalese, whose faith, Buddhism, is the state religion.

There were no face-to-face talks leading up the the deal, which was arranged through mediators. The signing, likewise, was done separately with mediators ferrying the cease-fire documents first to Vanni, the rebels' jungle headquarters, then to Vavuniya, a government-held town nearby.

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