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Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels pull out of peace talks

Written by: Staff

Batticaloa (Sri Lanka), Apr 15: Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels today said they would pull out of peace talks with the government in Switzerland due to a dispute over the transport of eastern rebel commanders to their northern base.

The Tigers were concerned about Sri Lankan navy plans to monitor a civilian sea transport escorting unarmed Nordic truce monitors that was to have taken the rebel commanders on Saturday, said the head of the Tiger peace secretariat, S Puleedevan.

''It is very important we meet our commanders,'' he said. ''We have cancelled the transport. If we cannot meet them, Geneva is off.'' Violence has surged in Sri Lanka, with more than 40 people killed this week in the bloodiest few days since a 2002 ceasefire.

Yesterday, the government agreed to a rebel request that talks scheduled in Geneva next week to rescue the fragile truce be postponed until April 24-25.

Head of the Sri Lanka monitoring mission, Swedish Maj-Gen Ulf Henricsson, said the Tigers had agreed to allow the Sri Lankan Navy to monitor the rebel transport vessel at a distance.

If the rebels did not know that, they had not read the paperwork properly, he said.

''I'm worried about the situation for Sri Lankan people of all ethnic groups,'' he told Reuters outside the monitoring mission's eastern Batticaloa office, as a road convoy to pick up the rebel commanders was getting ready to depart.

''Those in positions of responsibility on each side are not acting for the welfare of their people,'' Henricsson said.

Two decades of fighting by the Tiger for a Tamil homeland has killed more than 64,000 people on both sides.


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