Sri Lanka decides to formally end cease-fire with Tamil Tiger rebels, minister says
Wed January 2, 2008 10:57 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's government has decided to formally withdraw from a Norway-brokered cease-fire with Tamil Tiger rebels amid escalating violence that has rendered the deal redundant, a minister said Wednesday.
The move would mean that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, an independent Nordic group tasked with monitoring the hostilities, would have to pull out because it would have lost its mandate.
The withdrawal would also formalize a renewed state of violence between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, which analysts have called an ``undeclared civil war.''
According to the agreement signed in February 2002 between then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Tamil Tiger rebels' reclusive leader Velupillai Prabhakaran either side must give 14-days' notice before officially withdrawing from the truce.
Sri Lanka's current Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake proposed to the Cabinet the annulment of the nearly six-year-old truce and it was approved unanimously, cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Anura Yapa told The Associated Press.
``Today it was proposed to the Cabinet by the honorable prime minister that the cease-fire is no longer valid and it's time to withdraw from the cease-fire agreement,'' he said.
``All the ministers agreed to the proposal.''
Wickramanayake will soon formally notify peace broker Norway about the government's decision to pull out of the agreement, Yapa said.
Tamil Tiger officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The agreement had been considered the best chance of a permanent end to decades of civil war in the island nation and received widespread international support, especially from the United States, Japan, the European Union and India.
But the truce began breaking down in December 2005. The violence has since escalated to full-scale fighting and the government has captured large areas of former rebel-held territory.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the rebels are formally known, have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, after decades of discrimination by the state which is controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
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Published: Wed Jan 2 11:17:27 EST 2008