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DATE=11/10/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SRI LANKA OPPOSITION (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256002 BYLINE=VANDANA CHOPRA DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Sri Lanka's main opposition leader, and President Chandrika Kumaratunga's main rival in the next month's presidential elections, Ranil Wickremesinghe, says when he wins power he will begin talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels. Vandana Chopra has the details from Colombo. TEXT: The leader of Sri Lanka's main opposition, United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, says on assuming power he will hold discussions with other people in the Sri Lankan parliament before he begins talks with the Tiger rebels. Addrssing a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents Association, Mr. Wickeremesinghe says he is not promising peace in 24 hours but plans to start a confidence building process. Mr. Wickremesinghe also held current Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga responsible for the government's military debacle last week in the north and predicted Ms. Kumaratunga's defeat in next month's presidential elections. President Kumaratunga has publicly acknowledged military losses and has instituted a court of inquiry to punish those responsible. But she has said the media has exagerrated the number of government casualties. The recent spate of confrontations between the armed forces and Tamil Tiger rebels has resulted in the loss of control by the army in the strategically important towns of Oddusudan, Nedunkerni, Mankulam and Kanagarayankulam. The opposition has also accused the government of concealing military casualty figures and using censorship to prevent the nation from learning about the recent military defeats. After the rebel assault last week the government imposed censorship on all news reports related to the war. The last few days of fighting has seen the army lose key military bases in the Northern jungle region, Wanni and face some of its worst defeats in many years. Tiger guerillas have been fighting for a separate homeland for the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka's North and East since 1983. (Signed) NEB/VC/PLM TEXT: NEB/WTW/ 10-Nov-1999 06:40 AM EDT (10-Nov-1999 1140 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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