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Sri Lanka to Hold Local Elections in North

By VOA News
25 May 2009

Sri Lanka says it will hold elections in northern areas that were caught up in the devastating war between the military and Tamil rebels.

Government officials announced Monday that local council elections will be held inin early August. They will be the first elections in the area in more than a decade.

Parts of the region were held by the rebels before they admitted defeat last week in their quarter-century-long war.

The rebels' chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, announced Sunday that the group has given up violence, and will pursue independence through peaceful means.

He told the BBC the rebels have agreed to enter a democratic process to achieve the rights for the self-determination of the Tamil people.

The rebel spokesman acknowledged for the first time that the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, died last week during the final battles against government forces.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,000 civilians were killed during the final months of the war. About 300,000 people have been displaced.

The rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority in 1983. The U.N. estimates that the civil war resulted in up to 100,000 deaths.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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