Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan government offers rebels compromise

Colombo_(dpa) _ The Sri Lankan government has offered a compromise to end a deadlock with Tamil rebels Monday, after four soldiers and two civilains were killed and 12 injured in an attack by suspected rebels in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
According to a member of the government peace delegation, the compromise centres on arranging a meeting between rebel military wing commanders in the east and their leadership in the north by allowing them to use a private commercial aircraft.

Industries Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told a radio station that the government will now allow Tamil rebels to make use of a private commercial air craft to provide transport for their cadres as the previous offer to provide them with sea transport had not been successful.

Rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) initially demanded a government helicopter to fly their cadres to the north, but the request was turned down and arrangements were made to transport their cadres by sea under the supervision of the Scandinavian monitors.

The rebels on Saturday cancelled the sea trip, claiming that the Sri Lanka navy was monitoring them and interfering in their activities.

The government denied the claim and said the LTTE was trying to send armed escorts with the vessel due to transport the military wing leaders. Keeping with the arrangements made by the Scandinavian monitors, permission was not granted to provide an armed escort, eventually leading the rebels to call off the trip.

The LTTE on Sunday informed the Norwegian peace facilitators that they would delay returning to peace talks until a deadlock with the government on arranging the meeting between their military wing commanders in the east and their leadership in the north was resolved.

The talks initially due to be held in Geneva April 19 to 21 had been rescheduled for April 24 and 25, but following Saturday's developments the talks were set to be delayed.

The head of the political wing of the LTTE, in a letter to Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar on Sunday, said the LTTE will not attend the Geneva Talks until what it called "the hurdles in front of the LTTE to attend Geneva talks" were removed.

"Unfortunately, because the Sri Lankan Navy conducted itself in a manner that threatened the safety of our commanders, and because events took place that were against the promises made by the head of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM)," the meeting with their military wing leaders in the east could not take place, Thamilselvan said.

Minister Bogollagama said the new offer to allow the rebels to fly cadres in a commercial air craft has been officially conveyed to the Norwegian peace facilitators Monday evening.

But, there was no immediate response from the LTTE or any indication whether rebels were willing to accept the offer.

Security in the north and eastern provinces have been stepped up in view of the rebel attacks that continued Monday.

In one attack, suspected rebels set off a mine fitted to a three-wheeler taxi parked on the roadside when an army truck was passing the Verppankulam area of the Vavuniya district, 240 kilometres north east of the capital, on Monday, officials said.

Four soldiers were killed, seven more were injured as well as a civilian bystander by the blast.

In a separate incident, a Claymore mine, believed to have been targetting security forces, exploded killing two civilians in the Chavakachcheri area, 350 kilometres north of the capital, on Monday.

In a third Claymore mine attack Monday, two Air Force officers and the wife and daughter of another Air Force officer were injured when a bus carrying them from the eastern town of Batticaloa to the capital Colombo was targeted at Kiran, 250 kilometres east of the capital.

Since last Monday the LTTE have carried out a total of nine Claymore mine explosions, claiming the lives of 34 security personnel and police and more than 22 civilians. An attack on a market place in Trincomalee town killed mostly civilians.

Talks have been arranged under a Norwegian-backed peace process aimed at ending the country's 22-year-old ethnic conflict, which has claimed more than 70,000 lives. dpa ad mga

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