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European Peace Monitors Say Tamil Tigers Breached Truce


In Sri Lanka, European truce monitors say Tamil Tiger rebels violated the country's fragile truce earlier this week by firing at a navy boat carrying a truce monitor. A peace process intended to end ethnic conflict in the country has been deadlocked for two years.

The Sri Lanka truce monitoring mission says Tamil rebels were responsible for attacking a naval patrol ship with small arms fire off the eastern coast near Trincomalee earlier this week. A European truce monitor on the boat sustained minor injuries in the incident.

The monitors say such incidents "undermine the spirit of the ceasefire." The rebels earlier said they were not resposible for the incident.

A truce between the government and the rebels has largely held for the last three years, but in the past year there have been growing reports of clashes and killings of soldiers, rebels and civilians.

Many of these incidents are taking place in the east of the country, and have been sparked by a factional split in the rebel ranks last year.

Helen Olafsdottir, spokesperson for the truce monitoring missions, says increasing acts of violence by both the rebels and government troops are causing concern.

"It is the killings in the east that is posing the biggest problem for us now, and we have come out and said that is definitely undermining the ceasefire agreement, and we have encouraged both parties, and I underline both parties, to stop the killings," said Helen Olafsdottir.

The ceasefire has been under increasing strain since the rebels pulled out of peace negotiations two years ago, after accusing the government of failing to honor pledges it had made.

Jehan Perera who heads Colombo's National Peace Council says it is important to revive the peace process to stem the rising violence, but international mediators have met with no luck so far.

"It [violence] is part of a continuing deadlock in the peace proces," said Jehan Perera. "What is unfortunate is that all efforts by the Norwegian facilitators to get both parties back to the negotiating table to discuss political issues have not borne fruit, and at the moment there is no bright sign on the horizon."

However, analysts express confidence the ceasefire will continue to hold despite such incidents, because neither side wants to return to war. The two-decade long conflict for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east of the country has killed more than 60,000 people.

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