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Sri Lanka Tamil Rebels Want Interim Administration Prior to Peace Talks - 2003-05-21

Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka say they want an interim administration established in Tamil majority areas before they will return to peace talks.

A communique from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers, sets out tough new demands. The rebels said Sri Lanka's government must agree to set up an interim administration in Tamil areas of northern Sri Lanka before peace talks can resume.

The communique also said the Tamil rebels will not participate in a donor conference next month in Tokyo unless its demands for an interim administration are met.

The rebels already run much of northern Sri Lanka, but an interim administration would give them greater control over future reconstruction funds and aid money pledged to Sri Lanka.

Last month, the Tamils pulled out of Norwegian-mediated peace talks, saying Sri Lanka's government has not done enough to resettle thousands of Tamil refugees. But the rebels said they would continue to honor a cease-fire that has been in effect since last year.

There has been no response from Sri Lanka's government to the latest rebel demand.

Norwegian diplomats have been shuttling between Tamil rebel headquarters and Colombo trying to resolve the standoff. A senior U.S. diplomat who visited Sri Lanka last week pledged that international peace efforts would continue.

The Tamil rebels have been fighting for nearly two decades to carve out a separate state in northern Sri Lanka. The United States, Britain, Canada, and India have designated the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization.