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Sri Lankan rebels pass on offer to talk peace

Published August 14, 2006

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Government officials declared Sunday they were ready to hold peace talks, a move promptly dismissed by Tamil Tiger rebels as soldiers and insurgents traded artillery and mortar fire in northern Sri Lanka.

With the latest attempt to resume peace negotiations stumbling, Sri Lanka appears as close to falling into full-scale civil war as it has since a 2002 cease-fire.

"The Sri Lankan government's offensive attacks make peace talks and the implementation of the cease-fire agreement impossible," Seevarathnam Puleedevan, a senior rebel official, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from rebel territory.

Palitha Kohona, the chief of the Sri Lankan government's peace secretariat, had told reporters Sunday that the rebels recently told a cease-fire monitoring mission that they wanted to renew talks.

Tigers and government forces exchanged artillery fire Sunday near two key entry points to the northern Jaffna Peninsula, the heartland of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. Thousands of civilians were reportedly trapped by the weekend's battles on the peninsula. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

China bans Mickey & Co. from prime time TV

BEIJING - China has banished Homer Simpson, Pokemon and Mickey Mouse from prime time.

Beginning Sept. 1, regulators have barred foreign cartoons from TV from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to protect China's struggling animation studios, reports said Sunday.

Foreign cartoons are popular with China's 250-million children. The ban hasn't been formally announced, but newspapers criticized it Sunday as the wrong way to improve programming.

Elsewhere ...

congo still counting: Electoral officials counting votes from Congo's landmark presidential election July 30 said Sunday that support for incumbent Joseph Kabila has slipped to just above 50 percent, increasing the likelihood of a runoff. Less than a quarter of the ballots cast from the vote have been counted. A final tally was expected to be announced Aug. 31.

lights out: A construction crane reportedly struck some power lines today in Japan, causing a blackout for hundreds of thousands of homes in Tokyo and surrounding areas. Electricity was restored to most affected areas within hours.

[Last modified August 14, 2006, 01:48:01]

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