Sri Lanka advises Norwegian peace envoy not to meet Tamil Tiger leadership
Sun December 3, 2006 03:12 EST .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's government has advised a Norwegian peace envoy against meeting with the separatist Tamil rebel leadership as the government reviews its relationship with the insurgents, an official said Sunday. ``I have told Norwegian ambassador, Hans Brattskar, and Hanssen-Bauer that all contacts with the LTTE are under review by the government, and the Cabinet will decide on these issues on Wednesday,'' said Palitha Kohona, chief of the Sri Lanka - 's Peace Secretariat. He used the acronym of the rebels' formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Kohona declined to elaborate. However, the Cabinet is likely to take up the issue of re-imposing a ban on the rebels as punishment, after a suspected rebel suicide bomber in the capital, Colombo, tried to kill president's brother, who is also the defense secretary.
Hanssen-Bauer has already met with some senior government officials and has been set to travel to the rebels' northern stronghold of Kilinochchi for talks with the Tiger leadership on Dec. 4.
Kohona said he had informed Hanssen-Bauer that he cannot go to Kilinochchi until the government makes a firm decision on the matter.
A suspected rebel suicide bomber on Friday targeted Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse's convoy. The blast killed three people including the bomber, and wounded 14, but Rajapakse was unhurt.
The government blamed the Tamil Tigers for the attack. The rebels have not commented on it.
The latest round of peace talks, held in Switzerland in October, failed to make any progress in resolving Sri Lanka - 's more than two-decade-old conflict. Government-rebel relations have since deteriorated.
On Sunday, the military said Tamil Tigers had attacked an army camp in Sri Lanka - 's volatile east overnight, triggering an exchange of artillery and mortar fire.
The army repulsed the attack in the Batticaloa district, and no soldiers were injured, an officer from the government's Media Center for National Security said on condition of anonymity, in line with policy.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the island nation's 3.2 million minority ethnic Tamils, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
The government says it is willing to grant autonomy to areas where Tamils are in the majority, but the rebels insist on sweeping changes that the government says would infringe on the country's sovereignty.
The Tigers' top leader days ago called the Oslo-brokered cease-fire ``defunct,'' but the rebels later clarified that they would abide by the truce.
Despite the recent violence, both sides insist they have not withdrawn from the truce.
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Published: Sun Dec 3 04:49:12 EST 2006