Sri Lanka rebels decry 'genocide' before UN address

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COLOMBO, Sep 25 (Reuters) Accusing the Sri Lankan state of waging a genocidal war, Tamil Tiger rebels called for foreign support for Tamil sovereignty hours before President Mahinda Rajapaksa was set to address the UN General Assembly.

As the military today reported more heavy fighting, the Tigers said they had been isolated from the international community and called for a forum to argue their case.

''The government of Sri Lanka must end its deceptions, halt its military oppression, ethnic cleansing and serious human rights violations,'' the Tigers said in a statement issued overnight.

''(It must) accept the aspirations of the Tamil people and come forward to find a resolution that is based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people,'' the statement added.

''The international community must rein in the government of Sri Lanka to bring it in line.'' Beset by criticism over a rash of civil war human rights abuses, Rajapaksa is set to ''make a strong stand against terrorism'' at the UN General Assembly, state-owned government mouthpiece the Daily News said on Tuesday.

The Tigers, widely outlawed as a terrorist group and blamed for a spree of bombings and suicide attacks, accused the government of duplicity in offering peace talks while launching repeated military offensives and air raids amid a declared plan to wipe out their military strike capability.

DEATH TOLL CLIMBS The military said nine Tamil Tiger rebels were killed and 36 wounded in one battle in the northwestern district of Mannar on Monday. At least 10 Tiger rebels and possibly more than 20 were killed in two other clashes in the north on the same day.

In a separate incident early on Tuesday, two civilians were killed in a suspected rebel roadside bomb attack in the army-held northern Jaffna peninsula, the Defence Ministry said.

There was no independent confirmation of how many people were killed in the fighting or what had happened. Military analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

Sri Lankan officials say the international community is being too soft on the Tigers and their armed campaign for a separate state in the north and east.

''We have never gone for genocidal acts,'' military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said. ''They are the ones who are engaged in genocide.

''Even today they have exploded a Claymore mine in Jaffna, targeting civilians. One lady who got killed was a senior university lecturer,'' he added. ''They are not concerned about intellectuals even in their own area.'' Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and LTTE guerrillas since early 2006. Fighting is now focused on the north after troops this year drove the Tigers from eastern areas they controlled under the terms of a now-tattered ceasefire pact.

In all, nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983, and few see a clear winner on the horizon.

REUTERS JK RN1728

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