Tamil Tiger delegation cancels trip to Norway, Iceland following failed peace talks
Mon October 30, 2006 11:09 EST .
Associated Press Writer
GENEVA (AP) _ A Tamil Tiger delegation which met with Sri Lankan government officials in Switzerland this weekend will head straight back to the Indian Ocean island instead of traveling to Norway and Iceland as planned, a delegate said Monday.
Blaming the Sri Lankan government for the failure to revive the crumbling 2002 cease-fire agreement, Seevaratnam Puleedevan said the delegation had ``decided to return and inform our leaders of what has really happened at the peace talks in Geneva and what steps we need to take in future.''
He warned that flaring violence in the South Asian nation since Sunday, which has left at least three people dead and five injured in the northeast, was an indication that the military would soon attempt an offensive against the rebel stronghold of Killinochchi.
The Tiger delegation was originally scheduled to visit Norway and Iceland, two of the Nordic countries which have been heavily involved in setting up peace talks to bring an end to the 23-year civil war.
But failure to reach an agreement over the opening of a major highway which passes through government and rebel lines led to a deadlock in talks Sunday.
Both sides accuse each other of ignoring a humanitarian crisis in the northern Jaffna peninsula, where thousands face shortages of food, medicines and other essentials.
``The attitude of the Sri Lankan government with regard to the opening of the A9 road is causing 600,000 people misery,'' said Puleedevan.
Government delegates insisted throughout the talks that supplying aid by sea would be cheaper and more efficient, as well as prevent the Tigers from extorting money from vehicles passing along the highway.
Puleedevan repeated warnings from rebel commanders over the weekend that the military was planning an assault now that the talks are over.
``There is a lot of military concentration in the northern front, in Muhamalai, in the Jaffna peninsula,'' he said, adding that Sri Lanka's top-ranking military official, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka was in the area.
``The Sri Lanka government is planning to launch a big offensive attack towards (the Tamil held area of) Elephant Pass, and to capture Killinochchi, the capital of the LTTE,'' Puleedevan said, referring to the rebel group by the acronym for their official name, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. ``That is the reason the Sri Lanka government did not want to open the A9 road.''
Some 65,000 people have died in the conflict since the LTTE began fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in 1983, with more than 2,000 soldiers, rebels and civilians killed this year alone.
Published: Mon Oct 30 18:21:14 EST 2006