The United States Tuesday condemned the suicide attack on Sri Lanka's army chief as a provocation and an escalation of violence by Tamil Tiger rebels. U.S. officials say countries supporting Sri Lankan peace efforts will hold talks soon on the situation.

The attack by a female suicide bomber in Colombo severely wounded the Sri Lankan army chief and killed at least eight others, and it is being depicted here as an assault on the country's peace process as well.

The United States, along with Japan, Norway and the European Union, co-chaired a donor's conference on Sri Lanka in Tokyo in June of 2003, and have continued as informal sponsors of peace talks between the Colombo government and the Tamil Tigers in Geneva.

In a talk with reporters, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said he expects the Tokyo co-chairs to meet soon and discuss ways of dealing with the latest violence, which included retaliatory air strikes Tuesday by the Sri Lankan military.

Boucher expressed condolences and sympathies to those affected by the suicide bombing and said the United States is working with other parties to try to prevent a return to full-scale civil warfare on the troubled island.

"This is an act of violence to the political process as well," said Richard Boucher. "It's a provocation. It's regrettable that the Tamil Tigers decided to restart the war instead of restart the peace talks. And we are in touch with other governments both here and in capitals around the world to bring to bear whatever pressure we can on the Tamil Tigers to abandon this course of action."

Boucher said the United States has no direct dealings with the rebels, known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, but he said it does have contacts with parties who do.

The LTTE pulled out of a round of Geneva peace talks that had been set for this week, citing violence against its supporters by the government and a rival militant group they say is covertly supported by the government.

Even though Sri Lankan forces Tuesday staged their first air attacks against LTTE targets since a Norwegian-brokered truce went into effect in 2002, government officials were quoted as saying the retaliatory strikes do not mean war, and that the rebels should return to peace talks.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also condemned Tuesday's suicide attack and a spokesman said he was disturbed by the escalating cycle of violence on the island.