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 Post subject: No deal with Tigers, battle for water resumes!
 Post Posted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 8:52 pm 
Sri Lanka rejects Norway deal with Tigers, battle for water resumes

'Water should not be a negotiating tool,' 'We don't want terrorists to come and open the water way. They must simply allow irrigation engineers to do it, otherwise we will open it anyway.' government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella.

06Aug2006
© 2006 Forbes.com Inc.™


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TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka (XFN-ASIA) - Sri Lanka rejected peace broker Norway's deal with Tamil Tiger rebels to lift a water blockade at the root of the latest bloodshed that has claimed at least 425 lives by official count.

Troops began shelling suspected Tiger positions around Maavilaru in this north-eastern port district where the guerrillas blocked a sluice gate depriving water to some 15,000 farmer families down stream.

In the capital Colombo, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said they are not involved in Norway's talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that led to the rebels announcing they will open the sluice gates.

'Water should not be a negotiating tool,' Rambukwella told Agence France-Presse.

'We don't want terrorists to come and open the water way. They must simply allow irrigation engineers to do it, otherwise we will open it anyway.'

He said Norway's peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer had not consulted Colombo in cutting a deal with the Tigers. 'Hanssen-Bauer's discussions should have included us,' said Rambukwella who is also the Policy Planning minister.

The LTTE's political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan told Hanssen-Bauer that they will lift the water blockade, but warned of a return to full-scale war if the military launches new air strikes or artillery attacks against them.

Heavy fighting had raged since the military first carried out air strikes on July 26 and followed it with a ground offensive from July 31.

The Tigers also made it clear to Norway that any fresh air strikes or artillery attacks by security forces would be the end of a shaky truce in place since 2002 and would be regarded as Colombo's 'declaration of war.'

'If the government carries out any more air strikes or artillery attacks, we told Norway that we were afraid we will consider it as full-scale war in the future,' another Tiger spokesman Velayudan Dayanidi said.

Diplomats close to the peace process said Hanssen-Bauer's meeting with the Tigers this morning was seen as a key breakthrough to end the bloodshed, but hopes were dashed with the government's rejection of the deal.

Even as Hanssen-Bauer arrived in Kilinochchi, the Tiger rebels said they had pulled back to their original positions in the Trincomalee district after a week of heavy combat.

The rebels said 32 of their forces were killed during the weeks of fighting, far fewer than the 152 dead claimed by the defence ministry around Muttur late Friday alone.

The Tigers deny a government claim they massacred around 100 Muslims and in turn accuse government forces of slaughtering 15 Tamil aid workers in Muttur near the site of the dam.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said they had no access to the area and could not comment on the claims from either side.


aj/mp


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