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Tamil Tigers call for truce, Sri Lanka army says no

[AFP, Monday, 23 February 2009 09:19 No Comment]

capt.photo_1235367076125-1-0 Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers appealed Monday for international action to halt a major offensive against their shrinking fiefdom, but the island's military rejected any talk of a truce.


With rebel forces cornered in the northeast of the island by a massive attack by government forces, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) urged foreign powers to step in and arrange an immediate truce.

The LTTE said the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Japan and one-time peace broker Norway had to pressure the Sri Lankan government into accepting a ceasefire "so the miseries of the Tamils… are brought to an end."


"We also wish to inform the international community that we are ready to discuss, cooperate, and work together in all their efforts to bring an immediate ceasefire and work towards a political settlement," the LTTE's political chief B. Nadesan said.


But the Sri Lankan military said it would accept nothing short than the rebels' waving a white flag.

"Our position is that they must lay down arms and surrender," said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.


"There is no shift in our position."


The Colombo government withdrew from a Norwegian-brokered truce at the start of last year, after accusing the Tigers of using a peace process only to re-arm and consolidate their de facto mini-state in the north of the island.


Subsequent fighting has seen the LTTE lose control over nearly all of the north, including their one-time political capital of Kilinochchi and main military base of Mullaittivu.


The Tigers, who are fighting for an independent ethnic Tamil homeland on the Sinhalese-majority island, are now hemmed into a narrow strip of coastal jungle area near Mullaittivu.


The government has vowed to completely defeat the Tigers by April, when the country marks the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year.


The fighting has stoked concern for tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone, and the government has accused the rebels of using local Tamil civilians has human shields.


The LTTE statement, however, charged that dozens of people were being killed and wounded daily in the relentless bombardment of rebel territory and rejected calls for them to disarm.


"The world should take note that calls for the LTTE to lay down its arms and surrender is not helpful for resolving the conflict," said the statement.


"The protection of the Tamil people is dependent on the arms of the LTTE," the Tigers said.

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