Sri Lanka's president defends scrapping cease-fire in civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels
Tue January 22, 2008 08:22 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka's president defended his internationally criticized decision to scrap a cease-fire deal with the Tamil Tiger rebels, saying Tuesday that his patience wore thin because the insurgents increased attacks on civilians. The government formally ended a Norway-brokered 2002 cease-fire on Jan. 16. Countries that donate aid to Sri Lanka or that backed the truce including Japan, Norway, United States and European Union members immediately raised concerns about human rights and civilian safety following the announcement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he regretted the decision to end the truce.
Rajapaksa acknowledged that some countries have criticized the decision and said they did so out of a lack of understanding. He said the government has begun explaining its viewpoint to other countries.
He said his decision was hastened by a November bomb attack that killed nearly 20 civilians at a clothing store in a suburb of the capital, Colombo, and by a central Colombo roadside bombing that targeted a military bus and killed two schoolchildren earlier this month.
Intensified violence following the government's withdrawal from the truce has left more than 400 people dead in military clashes and airstrikes, as well as attacks on civilians even in the country's south, which has long been relatively peaceful.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the rebels are officially known, have fought the government since 1983 to create an independent homeland in the north and east for the country's minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades under a series of governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.Discuss this story
Published: Tue Jan 22 11:05:40 EST 2008