Army preparing for offensive in northern Sri Lanka , rebel official says
Sat October 7, 2006 22:37 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The Sri Lankan military on Sunday denied a Tamil rebel claim that the army is preparing an imminent attack on Tiger positions in the north, just days after the government agreed to fresh peace talks with the separatist guerrillas.
``We have reliable military intelligence that suggests the Sri Lankan military is in full preparation to launch offensive operations into our territory,'' the head of the rebels' political wing, Suppiah Thamilselvan, was quoted as saying on the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site.
The military denied an offensive was being planned.
``We will retaliate only when we are attacked'' said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe.
The rebel report said government forces were assembling near the northern Jaffna peninsula on Saturday.
``Heavy deployment of troops in the northern defense lines indicates that an offensive could be launched at any time.'' it said.
Dozens of army personnel and rebels have been killed in two days of fighting, with each side blaming the other for initiating the attacks. And the continuing violence comes despite the government's promise Thursday that it is ready to resume peace talks with the rebels, slated to take place in Switzerland at the end of the month.
About 1,500 people have died in increasingly heavy fighting since the last round of talks in February.
On Saturday, Thamilselvan wrote a private letter to a top peace envoy from Norway, rebel spokesman Daya Master said.
Master did not reveal precise details of the message to Jon Hanssen-Bauer but that in concerned a recent military offensive in the east.
The rebels have warned that while they are also ready to resume peace talks, they will withdraw from a 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire if the government continues to attack rebel positions.
Nordic cease-fire monitors have said recent deadly clashes in the north and east put the peace talks in ``jeopardy,'' while an analyst said it is doubtful they would succeed even if they go ahead.
``It is difficult to imagine that peace talks would be successful under these circumstances,'' Jehan Perera, an analyst at the independent National Peace Council, a Colombo-based think tank, said Saturday.
The Tamil Tigers formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and the east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people died in the conflict before the truce.
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Published: Sun Oct 8 00:42:14 EDT 2006