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Cease-fire in Sri Lanka

SRI Lanka's army began a two-day cease-fire yesterday in the war against cornered Tamil Tiger rebels and used loudspeakers to urge thousands of trapped civilians to flee the war zone.

The government, meanwhile, dropped Norway as a mediator, accusing Oslo of failing to protect its mission there from Tamil protesters.

The two-day cease-fire took effect after President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the military to restrict operations to a defensive nature for the Sri Lankan New Year. The move came amid increasing international pressure on the government to protect civilians.

But the lull in fighting did not set off an exodus. Military spokesman Nanayakkara said just 18 people had left the war zone by last night.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people are trapped along with the cornered guerrillas.

Angered by the attacks on its embassy in Oslo, Sri Lanka's foreign ministry told Norwegian Ambassador Tore Hattrem yesterday that it was "no longer feasible for Norway to act as facilitator in the peace process."


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