Bitter end for Sri Lanka's rebels?

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The rebels are cornered in a small stretch of territory in the north-east of the country.

There are two conflicting theories - which observers agree are equally plausible - as to how the last battle will finish.

"One school of thought is that the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, will go down fighting with his troops like General Custer in his famous last stand," says Amal Jayasinghe, Colombo bureau chief of the AFP news agency.

"Another body of opinion is that that the Tiger leader has already left the country - possibly for another Asian country - and is planning to fight another day. That may explain why the rebel infrastructure appears to be on the verge of collapse."

Mr Jayasinghe - who has covered the Sri Lankan war since it began in the 1980s - says that of the two options, the first is the more likely.

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