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DATE=5/19/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SRI LANKA - WAR (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-262552 BYLINE=VANDANA CHOPRA DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Sri Lankan government says it has delivered new weapons systems to the northern Jaffna region as fierce fighting continues. Government troops are trying to stop the Tamil rebels from recapturing the city of Jaffna. Vandana Chopra has more from Colombo. TEXT: The Sri Lankan military hopes these new weapons will help stop the rebel offensive which threatens supply routes to the government troops on the Jaffna peninsula and threatens the city of Jaffna itself. Sri Lanka has been on an arms buying spree since rebel guerillas captured the strategic Elephant Pass military complex last month and launched an offensive to re-capture Jaffna, their former stronghold. Foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar says the government held talks with arms manufacturers from seven countries earlier this month in a bid to build a stronge and better equipped force in the war ravaged north. The government statement says Tamil rebels have infiltrated army controlled areas near Jaffna and a search operation was in progress to locate and destroy the infiltrators. Meanwhile, the government statement says essential food items, medicines and ammunition were being regularly supplied to the besieged Palali air base. Palali serves as the main lifeline in the northern Jafna region, as there is no land supply route to government forces and the airbase is home to the military's main ammunition and fuel dump. Analysts say if the Palali air base were to fall to the rebels it would be difficult for the Sri Lankan government to move men and material to the area. Government statements about the war are impossible to confirm since no reporters are allowed in the war areas and news from Sri Lanka is subject to government censors. The government forces took control of Jaffna, the former rebel headquarters, in 1996 and now the rebels are trying to win it back. International id officials are expressing growing concern for the 500-thousand civilians in the northern Jaffna region where most of the fighting is taking place. The Tamil rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1983. (Signed) NEB/VC/PLM 19-May-2000 07:44 AM EDT (19-May-2000 1144 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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