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Sri Lanka's Donors Warn War Will Mean End of International Support


Sri Lanka's main donor nations have called on the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to halt violence and honor their ceasefire agreement if they want international aid to continue. The calls come just a day after the European Union listed the separatist Tigers as a terrorist organization.

Japan, the European Union, the United States and Norway said Tuesday that with Sri Lanka teetering on the edge of civil war, there is cause for grave concern.

The four donors jointly oversee the reconstruction and development of Sri Lanka.

Norway's Development Cooperation Minister, Erik Solheim, says that the government and the Tamil Tigers should recognize there will be no international support for a war in the divided nation.

"If they decide to go for war, it's their decision and their responsibility," said Solheim.

The European Union on Monday blacklisted the Tigers as a terrorist organization, freezing its assets. The Tamil Tigers have vowed to respond violently to any such move.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher says that threat could hardly make the Tamil separatists more violent.

"I really can't think that this would provoke them in a way different than their past behavior. The fact is this is a terrorist group that needs to be treated accordingly," said Boucher. "That does not mean one has to close the door on peace. But it does mean that, as we try to leave the door open to peace, you have to walk through that door without a suicide bomb on your belt."

The United States has long listed the Tigers as a terrorist group.

The Tamil rebels effectively control much of the north east of Sri Lanka. They have waged a bloody 23-year campaign for independence against the Sinhalese majority in the south. More than 65,000 people were killed before a 2002 ceasefire brokered by Norway.

The government and the rebels held their last round of peace talks in Geneva in February. A second round scheduled for April was canceled after the two sides blamed each other for rising violence.

The donor nations on Tuesday blamed both the Colombo government and the Tamil Tigers for not living up to pledges made during the February talks.

They urged the Tigers to renounce terrorism and return to negotiations. They also said the Sri Lankan government should address the legitimate grievances of the Tamils.

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