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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative Geneva Talks & After > Sri Lanka truce dead in all but name: Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, Head, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)

Sri Lanka truce dead in all but name:
Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, Head, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)

Reuter Report, 29 July 2006

COLOMBO (Reuters) - A four-year ceasefire between Sri Lanka's government and the Tamil Tiger rebels is dead in all but name and a low intensity war continues to rage, the head of the Nordic mission that oversees the truce said on Saturday.

Neither the government nor the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are willing to compromise to try to halt violence that has killed more than 800 people this year, and the military is being heavy-handed, said retired Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, who heads the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

"In reality they more or less have terminated the ceasefire agreement in their actions," he told Reuters in an interview at his home in downtown Colombo.

"It's still useful if the parties decide they want to talk, then you have the paper and you can go back to it. But just now we are far from a real ceasefire."

Sri Lanka's air force bombed rebel territory in the restive east for a fourth day on Saturday in a bid to wrest control of a rebel-held reservoir, killing seven LTTE fighters.

The government accuses the Tigers of choking the flow of water to state-held territory, and has vowed to send in ground troops backed up by more air raids if needed.

"It is definitely the wrong method. It is definitely overkill if you want the water," Henricsson said.

The air force dropped a bomb on Friday 750 metres (yards) away from where Henricsson was meeting rebel leaders in the eastern district of Trincomalee in a bid to resolve the dispute.

"We sat talking and got clearance from the government and tried to convince the LTTE to have confidence in the government," he said. "They dropped a bomb in the vicinity. That's not the right signal."

Many observers fear the fighting could spiral out of control, rupture a 2002 truce and restart a two-decade civil war that has killed more than 65,000 people since 1983. But Henricsson doubts there will be a full-blown war.

"I don't think either side have the capacity for a full-scale war," he said. "They definitely could continue and maybe increase the violence. There is also a risk that violence will spread, for example to Colombo, if they don't take care of the situation."

Henricsson is fighting a battle of his own. Finland and Denmark announced on Friday they would withdraw their 22 monitors after the Tigers demanded they quit the island by Sept. 1 in the face of a new EU terror ban against the rebels.

His native Sweden has not made up its mind. If they pull out, he is out of a job and the 54-strong mission will be hamstrung.

"If Sweden follow, it's just one-third of the monitors left. We can't keep up with all the complaints, it's impossible for us," he said.

"If SLMM is completely closed, you do have not that messenger that can support talks and look into serious violations. It will definitely make the life of ordinary people more insecure."

Analysts and diplomats worry an exodus of truce monitors could create a dangerous vacuum and make the situation even more volatile.




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