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Lankan Army chief urges govt, LTTE to address core issues

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Colombo, Mar 24 (UNI) Sri Lankan Army Chief Lt General Sarath Fonseka today urged the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to address the ''core issues'' of the bloody ethnic conflict at the next round of talks in Geneva in mid-April, without wasting their time on merely discussing the ''sideline issues''.

''They (the Government and the LTTE) should directly address the core issues, for the people to enjoy the benefit of it. There is no point in dancing around with sideline issues,'' the battle-hardened Army Chief told reporters here after a brief ceremony to re-launch the military official website at the army headquarters.

Pointing out that the people have not achieved anything during the past four years of ceasefire agreement, Mr Fonseka charged that the existing ceasefire agreement has a lot of fundamental flaws that are advantageous to the LTTE.

He also said the direct talks between the Government and the LTTE in Geneva in mid-February and the developments on the ground aftermath, did not give any confidence to the military as ''the LTTE is still trying to provoke the army'' to tarnish its image before the next round of talks.

The army chief also denied the constant charges by the Tamil Tigers of harbouring the renegade Karuna group, adding that his troops are a well disciplined force which would always carry out the orders of the superiors.

Last week, the LTTE's London-based chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham accused the government military of harbouring the paramilitaries, mainly the renegade Karuna group and assisting to launch attack on the LTTE cadres.

Mr Balasingham also warned that the alleged attacks by the paramilitaries would be considered as serious violation of the ceasefire and any such attack would force the rebel leadership to review its decision to take part in the next round of talks in Geneva.

Commenting on the risk of war, Lt Gen Fonseka said the government forces would not start a war, 'but is fully prepared to face any situation at any given time'.

Charging that it was the LTTE that was benefiting by dragging the ceasefire agreement, the army chief said, ''The LTTE should not go to war because it is they who would have to face the consequences of it''.

UNI XC CS GC1350

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