New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday welcomed the unilateral ceasefire announced by ULFA in Assam and said it was expected to sign an agreement with the banned outfit for suspension of operations and also for facilitating early talks.
   
Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a statement that the Central government has always expressed its willingness to hold a dialogue with any militant group that abjures violence, lays down arms and seeks a solution through peaceful democratic means.
   
"The Government of India welcomes the announcement made by the ULFA," he said.
   
The Home Minister said it was expected that a Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement will be signed and ground rules for observing the agreement will be finalised in the near future.
   
"The Government of India in consultation with Government of Assam will facilitate an early start to the talks," he said.
   
ULFA leaders, including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, had recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram and expressed their desire to seek a political solution to their demands.
   
The pro-talk ULFA faction led Rajkhowa had on Wednesday announced a unilateral indefinite ceasefire to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for political negotiations.

"Recognising and respecting the desire of the people of Assam for a peaceful solution of the ongoing conflict, the General Council had decided to initiate political negotiations with the Government of India and has empowered the Chairman of ULFA to declare ceasefire," Rajkhowa said in an email to the media.
   
The decision was arrived at following deliberations on the "armed struggle" by the ULFA since 1979, the message said and directed all members to implement the decision in letter and spirit.
   
It said political discussions had been held with the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi where "everybody has expressed the earnest desire that an honourable, meaningful discussion should continue in a peaceful atmosphere conducive to political negotiations."

(Agencies)