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US Re-Designates Tamil Tigers Terrorists Despite Efforts to Revive Peace Talks - 2003-10-03

The United States has re-designated Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels a terrorist organization, even as efforts continue to revive the stalled peace process. The rebels are finalizing proposals aimed at resuming talks with the government.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo says the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will remain on Washington's list of terrorist groups. The embassy statement says the rebels still engage in terrorist activities despite the ongoing peace process with the Sri Lankan government.

The rebels have wanted their name removed from Washington's terror list since they signed a ceasefire with the government in February, 2002.

Despite the truce, the rebels have been accused of a series of political killings, abductions and extortion in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern areas, which are under their control.

Although the cease-fire holds, peace talks have been stalled since April.

The rebels accused the government of moving too slow on promises made in earlier negotiations at which the rebels gave up demands for independence and settled for autonomy.

The Tamil Tigers insisted they would only resume a dialogue if they are allowed to establish an interim administration in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

The government offered a power-sharing agreement in July and the rebels have yet to respond.

Top Tamil leaders are meeting in Dublin, Ireland, to finalize details of their counter proposal, which they should present to the government by the middle of this month.

The head of Colombo's Center for Policy Alternatives, Paikasothy Saravanmuttu, says the future of the peace process hinges on how much power the rebel group - also known as the LTTE - will want from the government.

"There is a lot of speculation as to what will be contained in the proposals," he said. "There is a school of thought, it will be pitched quite high. There is another, which says irrespective of that, there is a strong intention of getting back to talks. So a lot of speculation that the LTTE will be pitching it quite high, will be wanting real political, executive power, certainly will be wanting power with regard to police, with regard to land, even perhaps with regard to judiciary. There is a lot of speculation, and that of course leads to a certain amount of uncertainty."

Last month, the United States urged the rebels to abandon terrorism, make realistic demands, and resume talks with the government.

More than 65,000 people have been killed in the island nation since the rebels began their armed struggle 20 years ago for a separate homeland in the Tamil-dominated north and east.