Monday, May 07, 2007

Sri Lanka to re-look at truce with Tamil Tigers

May 7, 2007 (AFP) - Sri Lanka was ready to negotiate a fresh ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels as the Norwegian-brokered truce had virtually collapsed, a government minister said Monday.

Defence ministry spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the ceasefire arranged and put in place by Norway from February 2002 had been violated more than 10,000 times and was virtually dead.

"There is no point in beating round the bush," Rambukwella told reporters when asked if the government accepted that the truce agreement was still on place. "The government is ready to re-look at it."

"It has been violated over 10,000 times by the Tigers. Yes, the ceasefire is there to make the international community happy, but you know the reality," said Rambukwella who is also the minister of foreign employment.

He said the government reserved the right to take any action to safeguard its "national interests" despite any provision of the truce limiting military action against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Both the government and the Tamil Tigers have carried out air attacks against each other despite the ceasefire expressly prohibiting aerial strikes.

Rambukwella said the military would step up its aerial surveillance of rebel-held territory using spy planes following the Tigers' demonstration of their air capability in March with the bombing of several military targets.

He said the military was also upgrading its capabilities to shoot down Tiger light aircraft which have carried out four sorties over the capital and a military complex in the north of the island and escaped unchallenged.

More than 4,800 people have been killed in a new wave of fighting since December 2005 despite the truce.

Peace talks between the two sides broke down in October 2005.

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