Indian rebels have indicated they are ready to resume peace talks, breaking more than a week of silence at a time of escalating tension in the southern state of Chiapas.

The conciliatory letter from the Zapatista National Liberation Army, released Tuesday night, was sure to help calm the nervousness created by recent increased activity by both the rebels and army troops.The lack of communication from the Zapatistas had unnerved Mexicans who fear a repeat of an uprising last New Year's Day in which more than 145 people were killed. A Jan. 12 cease-fire ended the fighting.

The letter, dated Christmas Day, was released by the Roman Catholic Church. In it, rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos said the Zapatistas were pleased by the government's acceptance of their demand for a church-led commission to mediate new peace talks.

The commission is headed by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who has been fasting for peace since Dec. 19. Ruiz had urged the rebels to return to the negotiating table.

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Marcos' letter did not mention an earlier rebel demand that Chiapas Gov. Eduardo Robledo Rincon resign and the federal government recognize the rebel-backed "shadow government" of lawyer-journalist Amado Avendano Figueroa.

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