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Sri Lanka rebels end water siege, but fighting over?

Written by: Staff

TRINCOMALEE, Aug 9 (Reuters) Water flowed to thousands of farmers in east Sri Lanka for the first time in three weeks today after Tamil Tiger rebels lifted a blockade, but the military said it was too early to say if the worst fighting since a 2002 truce was near an end.

The army fired rockets towards Tamil Tiger positions before dawn, 15 days after jets first dropped bombs on rebel areas in a bid to wrest control a disputed sluice. The rebels said late yesterday they had stopped retaliating against attacks from the military.

''Water is flowing. The water level has risen 6 feet high. That indicates there won't be a problem of water for those villagers and farmers,'' said Maj. Upali Rajapakse, senior coordinator at the media centre for national security.

''The humanitarian operation conducted by the security forces has achieved success,'' he said, adding it was too early to say if the military campaign was over.

The government says the Tigers must still vacate the area. The Tigers had vowed to reopen the waterway on Sunday, but the government replied with renewed artillery fire.

Nordic truce monitors said they hoped the violence, which prompted the first ground offensives since the truce, would now stop.

''We hope this is the beginning of the end of the violence,'' Thorfinnur Omarsson, spokesman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission which oversees the island's truce, said late yesterday. ''There is nothing to fight over now.'' More Reuters PB DB1017

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