Top U.S. envoy blasts Tamil Tiger rebels for mounting violence; urges talks
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
January 23rd, 2006, 8:00 pm SLT.
The United States on Monday called Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels a
"reprehensible terrorist group," and warned it will have no
relationship with the guerrillas unless it desists from violence. "We
hope that the LTTE will understand that it will have no relationship
with my government and, indeed, no effective relationship with any
country in this world as long as it seeks to redress its own
grievances through the barrel of a gun, " U.S. Undersecretary of State
Nicholas Burns told reporters in Colombo.
Assuring support to protect Sri Lanka's territorial integrity Burn's
said, "the people of this country ought not to have to live for
another 15 or 20 years with this reprehensible terrorist group keeping
this country verged on the edge of war."
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as the LTTE, have
been banned in the U.S. since 1997 as a terrorist group, along with
Burns said the U.S. understood that Sri Lanka's 3.2 million minority
Tamils had genuine grievances that must be respected by the majority
Sinhalese population. But the path to choose is peace instead of the
LTTE's "reprehensible policies."
Asked why the U.S. was fighting Al Qaeda while promoting
negotiations with the Tamil Tigers, Burns said, "Al Qaeda is a
terrorist organization that has no grievances whatsoever to negotiate
… It's a nihilistic terrorist organization that uses terrorism for
reprehensible aims. "
In a tough warning to the rebels Burns said the onus now lies with the
Tigers, "which has taken up terrorism and violence as its political
weapon," to resume peace talks with the Sri Lankan government.
He expressed hope that Norway International Development Minister and
top peace envoy Erik Solheim, will be able to break the ice between
the parties and arrive at a date and place for talks.
Even as the top diplomats launched a crucial push for peace in the
island, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels detonated a claymore mine in Sri
Lanka's restive eastern town of Batticaloa.
Three soldiers on a foot patrol were killed in the ambush that injured
three others. A subsequent grenade attack in the same area injured a
policemen. The fresh violence mounted the spate of attacks that has
killed more than 100 people in recent weeks, mostly government
security forces. The rebels continue to deny involvement and accuse
the government of killings and harassing Tamil civilians.
The latest attacks took place barely hours after Solheim
touched-down in the island to save an almost four-year cease-fire he
brokered, from collapse.
"I must remind you, even horrible as they are, these violations of the
cease-fire are short of all out war," Solheim told reporters, ahead of
a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Tuesday.
Solheim is scheduled to meet LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran on
Wednesday, in the northern rebel-capital of Kilinochchi. The rebels'
chief ideologue London-based Anton Balasingham also arrived Monday to
aid in the talks
"Everyone is worried about the deteriorating security situation,"
said Solheim , who has played a pivotal role in the process since
1998. "The key issue is to stop the killings and stabilize the
cease-fire. That is what I will try to achieve for this visit."
Solheim also hopes to break a deadlock between the parties over the
venue for talks. The rebels insisted that any meeting had to take
place in Oslo. Colombo, which has shown some flexibility, now hopes
that the Tigers will be agreeable to any other European destination
with the exception of Oslo and the 25 European Union nations where
there's a travel restriction on the rebels.
The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 to carve out an independent
homeland for the island's 3.2 million Tamil minority, who claim
discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The fighting killed nearly
65,000 before Norway brokered a cease-fire in February 2002. But
subsequent peace talks collapsed in April 2003 amid rebel demands for
wide autonomy in the Tamil-dominated north and east.
Despite international pressure, efforts to revive the talks have
failed, and the unprecedented violence in recent weeks has prompted
European truce monitors to warn that an outbreak of war was not far
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Published: Mon Jan 23 11:56:44 EST 2006