Monday, January 7, 2008

Sri Lanka slams Nordic nations over truce remarks

COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka took exception to a statement by Nordic nations which voiced distress over the situation in the Indian ocean island, where the government abrogated an Oslo-arranged truce.

The foreign ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland said in a joint statement last week that they were "deeply concerned about the worsening situation in Sri Lanka."

The remarks followed Colombo's decision to withdraw from a 2002 ceasefire on January 16. Quitting the truce sparked fears of further violence in a country where 6,000 people have been killed in fighting between rebels and government soldiers in the past two years.

The Sri Lankan government said the Scandinavian statement was unhelpful and could lead to further polarisation of the ethnically divided nation, where Tamil Tiger rebels are fighting for full independence.

"The continuing good faith of the government of Sri Lanka received no plaudits from Scandinavia," the government's Peace Secretariat said in a statement.

"Continuing acts of terror by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) received no criticism."

"Nordic worries about possible increases in violence and human suffering could well have been expressed earlier, and it is sad that they emerge only in the context of criticism of the government," the statement said.

Norway was instrumental in persuading the government and the Tamil Tigers to sign a truce in February 2002, and has since then tried but failed to secure progress during successive rounds of negotiations.

With fighting escalating in recent months, Colombo now believes it has the upper hand over the rebels and is in a position to capture the Tamil Tiger mini-state in the north.