Sri Lanka seeks to redefine role of Norway

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Colombo, Jan 4 (UNI) Even as Norwegian peace brokers began wrapping up their six-year mission with Sri Lanka scrapping the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the Tamil Tiger rebels, the government today announced that it would like to redefine the role of the ceasefire monitors.

''The Norwegians had a structured role in terms of the CFA.

So, today in the absence of that a new definition has to be brought in,'' Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told reporters, after briefing the Colombo-based diplomatic community on the latest development, here today.

The Royal Norwegian government was functioning as facilitators between the warring parties since 2000 and the Rajapaksa government's desire to redefine their role came exactly a day after it gave the mandatory two-week notice to Norway to formally end the truce deal with the LTTE.

''The abrogation of Ceasefire Agreement does not mean the end of Norway's facilitation. It is not a question of asking them to continue, but the question of defining a role for each of them (international community) to be part of this process,''Mr Bogollagama said.

He said redefining Norway's future role would necessarily consider the ''unfolding event'' on the ground, stressing that the government did not intend to thrust a definition on them.

''We are not going to thrust the definition. We are only trying to engage the ones who can serve our goals well towards seeking and realising our objectives,'' the minister said, adding that the government had not yet decided what that definition would be.

Unilaterally abrogating the nearly six-year long truce deal with the rebels, the Rajapaksa government said it might hold talks with the rebels if they lay down weapons.

The Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which kept a tally of violations of the truce agreement, was initially seen as a deterrent to human rights abuses by both sides but became increasingly ineffective as its access in conflict areas was hampered. Its role ends with the ceasefire.

The Norwegian facilitators and several other countries have already expressed regret over the government's ''serious step'' to pull out of the ceasefire agreement as it would further aggravate the already escalated violence in the island nation.

There was no immediate reaction from the Tigers.

Over 5000 people have been killed due to an upsurge of violence since December 2006.

UNI XC SYU RS1558

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