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Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers Dismiss Government Truce as Insincere


In Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers say a two-day holiday truce called by the government is insincere and have called for a long-term ceasefire supervised by the international community. The government has repeatedly rejected such calls from the rebels.

The Tamil Tigers say only a long term truce overseen by the international community can be effective and establish the basis for a political settlement to the country's ethnic conflict.

The rebels, who have suffered massive battlefield reverses, say they are prepared to restart peace negotiations with the government.

A two-day ceasefire declared by the government ends Tuesday. But the rebels have dismissed the brief truce as an "act of hoodwinking" designed to deflect mounting international concern over the fate of civilians trapped in a narrow area in the northeast along with rebel fighters.

The estimated 100,000 civilians have come under shelling and firing from both sides, according to aid workers. Many have been killed or wounded.

The truce was declared to allow these civilians to leave the war zone. But the government says very few have come to army-controlled areas.

Army spokesman Udaya Nanayakara said no civilians had come to government controlled territory until afternoon on the second day of the truce. He says only a handful came on the first day.

"Yesterday only very few have come on the ground, amount to about 50…..the LTTE they know this period is meant for the civilians to come in, but they have not allowed the civilians to come," Nanayakara said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has asked Colombo to consider a longer halt in the fighting to allow more civilians to leave. But the government has rejected the request, saying the rebels have not demonstrated any goodwill in allowing civilians free movement.

The government has consistently turned down requests for a long halt in the fighting, saying it will give the rebels time to regroup at a time when it is on the verge of crushing them. On Monday, the government stripped Norway of its role as peace broker ending a decade-long Norwegian effort to negotiate an end to the ethnic conflict. The government action came after pro-Tamil demonstrators attacked the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo.

The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils for 25 years. The conflict was triggered by complaints of discrimination against the minority Tamil community by the majority Sinhalese.


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