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US engagement irks Colombo, Norway ousted from Sri Lanka peace mission

[TamilNet, Monday, 13 April 2009 16:36 No Comment]

Sri Lanka in a formal letter handed over to Norway’s ambassador to Colombo, Tore Hattrem, Monday, has stripped the peace facilitator of its role in the Sri Lankan process, AFP said in a report Monday. "The government of Sri Lanka perceives that there is no room for Norway to act as (peace) facilitator," AFP quoted an official as saying. The announcement comes following recent reports leaked in Colombo press suggesting that the United States had contacted the LTTE leadership through a third party and that the LTTE, concerned of the security of the civilians, had proposed a longer period of ceasefire. Diplomatic circles in Colombo said that Sri Lanka’s action was precipitated by the revelation that the United States Government was using Norway as a third party to facilitate a week long ceasefire.

Colombo’s action effectively terminates more than ten years effort by Norway as a peace facilitator between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers.

Sri Lankan daily, Lakbima, reported Monday that the Sri Lanka government had told the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake that if the "US could guarantee that the LTTE would release civilians, government would halt military operations for a period of 48 hours only."

The Lakbima report went on quoting Sri Lankan military sources: "The LTTE is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US thereby preventing direct contact with the Tigers. Hence a third party was a requirement for negotiations. However, it is not known who the third party was, though some sources suggest that it may have been the peace facilitator, Norway."

Mr. Rajapaksa’s official announcement on Sunday didn’t mention the term ‘ceasefire’ at all. The announcement was viewed as an insulting ‘festival diplomacy’, which was aiming for the imprisonment of civilians by Colombo, calling for the LTTE to accept ‘defeat,’ renounce ‘terrorism and violence’ permanently and was threatening that the war will continue until securing complete surrender of the Tigers.

Escalating numbers of Tamil civilians killed in the Safe Zone by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) shelling from January, and sustained protests in World capitals including London, Paris, Ottawa, Mebourne, Washington and Norway where Tamil expatriates gathered in large numbers, more than 200,000 in London this Saturday, have brought enormous pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to accept a ceasefire arrangement as a relief to the more than 250,000 civilians crowded in the Safe Zone.

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