Political changes here have raised hopes that the 18-year civil war may soon come to and end. The election of opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister Dec. 5 may have prompted the Tamil Tigers to announce a month-long unilateral cease-fire to begin on Christmas eve. Wickremesinghe had said he would resume peace negotiations if elected, while the previous government ignored the Tigers’ Christmas cease-fire last year and instead pledged all-out war. The Tigers have recently suggested that independence is no longer their objective, that autonomy for the Tamil region would be satisfactory, raising hopes that a political solution could be achieved.