Finland, Denmark withdraw from Sri Lanka cease-fire monitoring team amid rising violence
Fri July 28, 2006 12:34 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Finland and Denmark, two of the five countries in the European monitoring mission overseeing the shaky cease-fire between the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tiger rebels, have decided to withdraw because of inadequate security, a spokesman said Friday.
Sri Lanka - Monitoring Mission acting spokesman Robert Nilsson said the two countries notified the group that their monitors will withdraw on Sept. 1.
``The foreign ministries back home feel that they don't get proper security guarantees for their monitors, that why they are withdrawing,'' he said.
``This is quite worrying, we will end up with a much smaller SLMM. In the end it's the Sri Lankan people that will be affected by it,'' Nilsson said.
Finland has deployed 12 monitors and Denmark eight, he said.
The 57 members of the mission come from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.
Norway formed the monitoring team after brokering the 2002 truce, which stopped the civil war between the rebels and the government.
The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have opposed the inclusion of European Union members in the team since the EU designated the rebels a terrorist group in May.
At a June 8 meeting, the rebels said they would give the mission one month to withdraw EU members, but later extended the deadline until Sept. 1.
Of the five countries in the monitoring mission, only Norway and Iceland are not EU members.
On July 21, Swedish diplomat Anders Oljelund met with top Tamil Tiger officials but failed to persuade the guerrilla leadership to drop the demand.
The LTTE demand comes amid a surge in violence between the insurgents and the government, threatening the four-year cease-fire and raising the threat of all-out civil war.
The rebels are already banned in the United States, Canada, Britain and in neighboring India.
The LTTE has been fighting for a separate homeland for the minority Tamils since 1983. The conflict left more than 65,000 people dead before the 2002 cease-fire.
Published: Fri Jul 28 13:22:03 EDT 2006