Sri Lanka 'rejects Tiger talks'

The Sri Lankan government has rejected a United States-led call to negotiate terms of surrender by the Tamil Tiger rebels, the country’s defence secretary was quoted as saying in a report on Thursday.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse said he would only accept the complete surrender of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who are facing imminent defeat, the privately run Island newspaper reported.

Sri Lanka’s key international backers—the United States, European Union, Japan and Norway—on Tuesday asked the Tigers to lay down their arms, negotiate terms of surrender and take part in a political dialogue.

“Nothing could be as ridiculous as this,” Rajapakse said. “Nothing short of unconditional surrender of arms and cadres could bring an end to the offensive.”

Rajapakse, who is President Mahinda Rajapakse’s younger brother, said Tuesday’s statement by the quartet known as the Co-chairs was a “transparent attempt to save the Tigers”.

The Co-chairs, who in 2003 helped raise $4,5-billion in support of a Norwegian-backed peace initiative, said the military had cornered the guerrillas in the island’s north-east.

“There remains probably only a short period of time before the LTTE loses control of all areas in the north,” they said.

The defence secretary stressed there could be no future political role for the Tigers, who have not commented on their recent battlefield losses.

“The international community should not expect the Sri Lankan government to allow the LTTE’s participation as a political party in a fresh negotiations process after the armed forces crushed its wherewithal to wage war,” he said.

Foreign governments have said the bloodshed must end, and thousands of Tamils and their supporters held protests in Paris, Geneva and Berlin.

Pope Benedict XVI also added to the calls to stop what he called “the growing number of innocent victims.
“I make an urgent appeal to the combatants that they respect humanitarian law and the freedom of movement of people,” the pope said during his weekly general audience.

Human Rights Watch has said Sri Lankan authorities have shown a “callous indifference” towards non-combatants trapped in the fighting by refusing to guarantee their safety.

But President Rajapakse, a member of the majority Sinhalese community, this week pledged to protect ethnic Tamil civilians.—AFP


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