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US Warns Sri Lankan Rebels Against Cease-fire Violations

23 January 2006

A top U.S. official says the Tamil Tiger guerrilla group bears the bulk of the responsibility for the near collapse of Sri Lanka's peace plan. The visit by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns comes as yet another violent incident struck eastern Sri Lanka.

A preview of the message given to the Tamil Tigers by Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal, in an editorial submitted by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

In it, Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead charged that recent cease-fire violations undermined the legitimacy of the Tamil Tigers claim to represent the aspirations of Sri Lanka's ethnic-Tamil minority. He accused the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) of committing acts of terrorism. He said until they renounce terror, there can be no future role for the group in the development of Sri Lanka.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Philip Frayne explains.

"Under Secretary Burns repeated that message, saying really, the LTTE shoulders a much larger part of the blame for the breakdown in the cease-fire agreement, particularly after the elections in November," he said. "A much larger share of cease-fire violations occurs at the hands of the LTTE. And so, Under Secretary Burns was also quite tough on them, saying they have got to stop and get back to negotiations right away."

Mr. Burns also called for Sri Lanka's government to do more to address grievances the Tamils have with rule by Colombo. Most of the government is made up of members of Sri Lanka's ethnic-Sinhalese majority.

Nearly 80 Sri Lankan army and navy personnel have been killed in recent weeks in a series of violent incidents in the north and east, the historic heartland of the ethnically-fueled civil war.

Mr. Frayne said the Under Secretary of State did not outline possible measures the United States would take to further compel the Tamil Tigers to return to the negotiating table. But he did remind the rebels of the relationship the United States shares with the Sri Lankan government.

"What he said was that we have been providing all along some military assistance to the Sri Lankan government in the form of training for the most part, but he did not go into specifics of what aid we might provide in the future," Mr. Frayne added.

The Tamil Tigers waged a two-decade campaign against the government; first for independence, and then for greater autonomy in predominantly Tamil areas. But the 2002 cease-fire, negotiated by Norwegian peace mediators is on the brink of collapse.

Mr. Burns met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who has warned that the government has limited patience for cease-fire violations. He also met with Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim, who is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka to try to revive the dying peace plan.

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