Norway envoys push for Sri Lanka peace talks; army kills 2 suspected Tamil rebels
Fri May 26, 2006 07:30 EDT .
ASHOK SHARMA - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The army shot and killed two suspected Tamil rebels and unidentified gunmen killed an ethnic Tamil civil servant Friday as Norwegian envoys met with Sri Lanka - 's president in a bid to prevent the island nation from sliding back into full-blown conflict. A 2002 cease-fire agreement between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels has been disintegrating amid an upsurge in violence and clashes, including last month's assassination attempt on Sri Lanka - 's army chief.
Friday's shootout occurred in Kopay, a small town in government-controlled northern Jaffna peninsula, when the army stopped two suspected guerrillas riding a motorbike, said Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe, an army spokesman.
The suspected insurgents opened fire on the troops sparking the firefight that killed both Tamils and wounded one soldier, the spokesman said.
Jaffna is 300 kilometers (250 miles) north of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.
In the eastern town of Batticaloa, rebels tried to blow up an army truck, causing minor damage but no casualties, Samarasinghe said. Batticaloa is 225 kilometers (140 miles) east of Colombo.
Also in Batticaloa, gunmen fatally shot Ratnam Rathnarajah, an ethnic Tamil civil servant in front of his office, area police chief D. Ranasinghe said. The motive and the identity of the assailants were not immediately known, said Ranasinghe. Police were investigating.
Attempts by Norway, which brokered the truce, to revive a peace process that stalled in 2003, have so far fallen flat.
The government and rebels held peace talks in Geneva in February, but a second round slated for April was canceled after they blamed each other for rising violence.
Nearly 300 people have been killed since April, raising fears that Sri Lanka - is heading back to all-out war.
The Norwegian envoys' efforts at restarting talks to permanently end the conflict come before a May 30 meeting in Tokyo of sponsors of the peace process: the European Union, Japan, the U.S. and Norway.
Solheim was scheduled to fly to neighboring India later Friday to brief officials in New Delhi, a Norwegian Foreign Ministry statement said.
India sent peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka - in 1987, but withdrew them three years later after more than 1,100 Indian soldiers died in clashes with the Tigers.
Hannsen-Bauer, meanwhile, planned to meet Tamil Tiger leaders Saturday in hopes of persuading the guerrillas to return to the peace table.
He has called for an early resumption of peace talks in meetings this week with government officials and political leaders, but Solheim has sought to play down expectations, saying the situation in the country was difficult.
S. Puleedevan, chief of the Tamil Tigers' peace secretariat, has said the outcome of Saturday's talks would depend on the government's response to the mounting killings in the north and east.
``Violence should be stopped,'' Puleedevan said by satellite phone Thursday from the rebel stronghold in the northern town of Kilinochchi. ``From our side, we are committed to the peace process.''
The Tamil Tigers began fighting the government in 1983 for a separate homeland for minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire.
Associated Press writer Bhartha Mallawarachi contributed to this report. Discuss this story
Published: Fri May 26 08:12:35 EDT 2006