Sri Lanka cease-fire strained as Tamil Tiger rebels refuse to meet with military
Mon June 28, 2004 11:20 EDT .
SHIMALI SENANAYAKE - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Tamil Tiger rebels refused on Monday to resume regular meetings with the Sri Lankan military to review a fragile cease-fire, further straining the truce and complicating efforts to revive stalled peace talks, officials said. The pro-rebel TamilNet Web site quoted Thamilselvan as saying the Tigers ``will not recommence meetings with the Sri Lanka - army'' while the government and military ``continue to harbor'' the renegade leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan.
Peace efforts aimed at ending the island's 19-year civil war suffered a major blow last week when the Tigers accused the government of trying to divide and weaken the separatist movement by supporting Muralitharan.
The government admitted that some military personnel had helped protect the breakaway faction, but said the soldiers had supported the renegades without the government's ``knowledge or connivance.''
Since then, the Tigers have refused to meet with security forces in the east for routine talks to address day-to-day problems in maintaining the February 2002 cease-fire agreement, which has held despite a breakdown in peace talks more than a year ago.
``It complicates our role and things at a local level,'' Haukland said, stressing that the discussions were the ``cornerstone'' of the truce.
``I don't think it will jeopardize the agreement but it does make things difficult,'' Haukland added.
The Tigers' tough stand came hours before a top Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim was to arrive in the island to try to bridge the widening differences between the two sides and kick-start the stalled peace talks.
``The future of the cease-fire agreement and the peace talks is not in our hands now. It is in the hands of the Sri Lanka - army, Sri Lanka - Monitoring Mission and the Norwegian facilitators,'' Thamilselvan said.
The Tamil Tiger rebels began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's minority Tamils. More than 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the truce.
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Published: Mon Jun 28 12:29:21 EDT 2004