Sri Lankan rebels demand government hand over splinter group members
Fri February 17, 2006 09:46 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A top Tamil Tiger rebel Friday demanded that the Sri Lankan government hand over members of a splinter group who they blame for attacks against them. te in eastern Sri Lanka - .
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka - 's President Mahinda Rajapakse expressed confidence that Geneva talks would assure a productive start to the peace process.
Addressing a multiparty conference in Colombo to explain the peace process, Rajapakse said that the focus of the talks would be on ``implementing a meaningful cease-fire.''
Also Friday, the government released from prison four members of the Sea Tigers, the naval wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said Helen Olafsdottir, a spokeswoman for a European cease-fire monitoring team.
Rebel spokesman Daya Master confirmed the release of the four men, who were arrested in October while allegedly filming the Trincomalee harbor, where Sri Lankan navy has a base. The government also withdrew charges of violating the country's anti-terrorism act.
The move was seen as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the Feb. 22-23 peace talks
The rebels plan to reciprocate by releasing a Sri Lankan policeman from their custody Saturday, said another rebel official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The policeman and two colleagues in September strayed into rebel territory while chasing an alleged pedophile from Britain.
The Tigers launched a violent campaign in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in the northeast, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. The civil war killed 65,000 people before the cease-fire was signed in 2002. Peace talks broke down a year later over rebel demands for wide autonomy.
Associated Press writers Dilip Ganguly and Bharatha Mallawarachi contributed to this report.
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Published: Fri Feb 17 10:29:04 EST 2006