Sri Lanka to take ``measures'' if rebel attacks continue;Tamil party warns of full scale war
Mon October 9, 2006 07:26 EDT .
LEIGH MURRAY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka's president warned Monday that ``appropriate counter measures'' would be taken to ensure security if Tamil Tiger attacks continue, as a Tamil political party warned of full scale war if the military launches a major offensive. The statement came after Rajapakse met Monday with ambassadors from the countries backing Sri Lanka - 's peace process Japan, the United States, Norway and European Union members.
Rajapakse said he hoped those countries could help persuade the Tamil Tigers ``to abandon their violent approach and return to negotiation.''
Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer last week intensified efforts to restart Sri Lankan peace talks that collapsed in February and end months of bloodshed. He held separate talks with government representatives and Tamil rebels to try and bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.
The Tigers have warned they will withdraw from a 2002 Norwegian-brokered cease-fire if the government continues to attack rebel positions.
Dozens of army personnel and rebels have been killed since last week in fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka - . About 1,500 people have died in increasingly heavy fighting since the last round of peace talks in Geneva in February.
Meanwhile, The Tamil National Alliance a political party widely believed to be a proxy of the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels appealed to the international community late Sunday to urge the government to help create a conducive atmosphere for a return to peace talks.
``There can be little doubt that any such further offensive military operations by the government of Sri Lanka - will almost certainly result in the breakout of full-scale war and a complete negation of the cease-fire agreement,'' said TNA parliamentary member Mavai S. Senathirajah, according to TamilNet, a pro-rebel Web site.
The rebels' political wing said at the weekend that reliable intelligence suggests the Sri Lankan military is in full preparation to launch a major attack on rebel and civilian settlements in the north under a scorched-earth policy.
The military dismissed the allegation, saying it only retaliates if attacked.
TamilNet, quoting unnamed rebel officials, said the army was building up its arsenal on its northern front lines, indicating a ``war plan based on a scorched-earth policy that will flatten civilian settlements'' around the Tamil areas on the Jaffna Peninsula.
The military controls almost all of the Jaffna Peninsula, but small pockets are under rebel control, and fighting since Aug. 12 has cut off a major highway linking it to the mainland.
In the latest fighting, the Tigers attacked the defense line in Welioya, 255 kilometers (160 kilometers) northeast of the capital, Colombo, late Sunday, triggering an overnight gunbattle between army and insurgents, said an officer at the Media Center for National Security, speaking on anonymity condition as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
He said the army did not suffer any casualties.
Separately on Monday, suspected Tamil Tigers exploded a roadside bomb near an army checkpoint in the eastern Batticaloa district, wounding one soldier, the officer said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
Also on Monday, schools in besieged northern Jaffna Peninsula reopened. The schools were initially closed Aug. 12 due to fighting in the peninsula but reopened on Aug. 30. They were shut down again shortly after following protests by a student group affiliated to the rebels who opposed the schools operating while conditions in the area remained unsafe.
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Published: Mon Oct 9 08:59:34 EDT 2006