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Tamil Tiger Guerrillas Deny Involvement in Foreign Minister's Assassination

Sri Lanka's separatist Tamil Tiger group has denied any involvement in the assassination late Friday of the foreign minister. The government imposed a state of emergency in response to the killing, amid growing fears that Sri Lanka's shakey 2.5-year-old cease-fire may collapse.

The Tamil Tigers say the Sri Lankan government should look inward, if it wants to find out who assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. In a statement released on the rebels' Web site, the group denied any involvement in the assassination, and suggests that a rogue element of Sri Lanka's military may be to blame.

A sniper killed Mr. Kadirgamar late Friday, as he was leaving the swimming pool of his heavily protected home in the capital, Colombo. Officials say the killing was likely the work of the Tamil Tigers.

The assassination sent shockwaves throughout Sri Lanka and beyond. In Colombo, flags flew at half staff. International leaders, meanwhile, sent tributes, condemnations of the murder and messages in support of the peace process to the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The government and the rebels signed a cease-fire in November 2002. But, recently, there have been signs that the peace plan may be near collapse, with a series of violent incidents between the two sides erupting in the north and east of the country.

Still, spokesman Nimal Siripala De Silva says the government remains committed to peace.

"Of course, this is a blow to the peace process, but the path for peace is not so easy as we think," said Nimal Siripala De Silva. "But the determination of the government to achieve peace is not shattered by these barbaric acts."

The government and the Tamil Tigers fought a bloody two-decade civil war based on ethnic rivalries. Norwegian mediators brokered the cease-fire 2.5 years ago.

But, despite repeated efforts by the Norwegians to resume peace talks, the two sides have been at an impasse for months over a framework for a government that would give greater rights to Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, while maintaining the unity of Sri Lanka.

Hopes were raised earlier this year that the shared tragedy of the Indian Ocean tsunami would help bridge the gap between the government and the rebels, restarting the stalled peace process. Sri Lanka lost more than 30,000 people to the waves.

Instead, the rebels and parties within President Kumaratunga's coalition government have been at odds over how to distribute relief materials and financial assistance.