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 Post subject: S.Lanka monitors may have to flee: Envoy
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 22, 2006 6:40 pm 
S.Lanka monitors may have to flee: Envoy

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have given monitors from EU nations -- Sweden, Denmark and Finland -- until September 1 to leave Sri Lanka. The rebels insist 37 monitors from the three countries must leave, which would leave just 20 from Norway and Iceland -- not enough to properly oversee a 2002 truce.

By Simon Gardner
© Reuters 2006 / today.reuters.com
Sat Jul 22, 2006 8:11 AM ET

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels are being unreasonable in demanding the exit of truce monitors from European Union nations, and the observers will have to pull out unless their safety is guaranteed, a top Swedish envoy said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have given monitors from EU nations -- Sweden, Denmark and Finland -- until September 1 to leave Sri Lanka in light of a new EU ban against them, which analysts warn would leave a dangerous vacuum as growing violence kindles fears of renewed civil war.

Before the ban the Tigers had warned they would not be able to guarantee the safety of monitors who travel aboard navy ships, but it is not yet clear what will happen if the unarmed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) ignores their demand.

"If they can't guarantee their safety, it means they cannot accept us, and then it's not only the safety it is also the working conditions for the Swedish, Finnish and Danish members," visiting Swedish Ambassador-at-Large Anders Oljelund told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.

"Then we will have to pull out," he added. "If LTTE sticks to their decision to exclude three northern countries for these reasons from the mission, I think the work of the mission will be hampered and I think also the credibility of the mission will be reduced."

The rebels insist 37 monitors from the three countries must leave, which would leave just 20 from Norway and Iceland -- not enough to properly oversee a 2002 truce.

The Tigers rejected Oljelund's plea on Friday to reconsider their decision.

PEACE PROCESS DEADLOCKED

Tiger political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan told Reuters this month the rebels would only review their position once the EU removes them from their list of terrorist organizations.

"I can understand the reaction of the Tigers. They perceive this (EU) decision as a ban of their whole organization. They don't see that there is any balance," Oljelund said on his return from a visit to the Tigers' northern stronghold of Kilinochchi.

"But I think it is unreasonable still, because also the Tigers must little by little be able to look upon themselves (and see) this is a wider peace process in which the international community ... must be taken into consideration."

The monitors themselves say opinions range from withdrawing the mission to ignoring the LTTE demand and continuing work as normal -- a dangerous option after close shaves during attacks.

"The situation has changed after September 11, the situation has changed after the Cold War, and if you can't act politically and adapt yourself to new circumstances, (the Tigers') credibility ... will be affected," Oljelund said.

Many ordinary Sri Lankans fear escalating attacks and clashes between the military and the Tigers that have killed more than 700 people so far this year -- more than half of them civilians -- could reignite a war that has killed over 65,000 since 1983 and displaced tens of thousands more.

The violence continued on Saturday, when two soldiers were killed and two were wounded in the latest mine explosion.

"I think there is a possibility that they will change their mind ... (but) LTTE told us that their decision taken already is not going to be changed," Oljelund said.


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