Oslo: Indian officials met in "secret" with the LTTE ahead of Sri Lanka's 2002 truce although New Delhi considered the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group, Norwegian cabinet minister Erik Solheim has revealed.

The former envoy to Sri Lanka also said India played a covert role in events that led to the Tamil Tigers and Colombo signing a ceasefire agreement nine years ago.

Solheim spoke at length at his office here after addressing a meeting where a report was released on Norway's role in Sri Lanka's peace process.

According to Solheim, the minister for environment and international development, Indian officials held a "secret meeting" with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) before the ceasefire was signed in February 2002.

Solheim declined to say where the meeting took place or who participated in the meeting from the two sides. If true, this would be the first known meeting between Indian officials and the LTTE since New Delhi banned it in 1992 for assassinating former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Solheim also added that contrary to public knowledge, the Indian government, then led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), played a key behind-the-scenes role in the framing of the Norwegian-sponsored ceasefire.

Several meetings

He said he himself held several meetings with India's national security adviser and officials of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) as Colombo and the LTTE inched towards the ceasefire.

He said some meetings with RAW officials took place at New Delhi airport.

The ceasefire ushered in months of peace in Sri Lanka before falling apart. The LTTE and the Sri Lankan regime went to war again in 2006, leading to the decimation of the Tigers in May 2009.

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, who met Solheim about ten times in all, starting in 2001, was an "absolute amateur" in international politics even though he was a "military genius", the minister said.

LTTE idealogue Anton Balasingham also complained to Solheim that both Prabhakaran and LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman insisted for months that their group had no role to play in Rajiv Gandhi's killing.

"They tried to convince Balasingham that they had nothing to do with it," Solheim said. He quoted Balasingham as saying: "I did not believe the story, and they eventually stopped lying to me."