LTTE offers 10-day truce, Sri Lanka rejects it (Second Lead)

July 22nd, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, July 22 (IANS) Tamil Tiger guerrillas have offered a 10-day truce from July 26 to Aug 4 to coincide with a South Asian summit here, but Colombo has rejected it after branding it a “trap”. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Monday night that it was making the “goodwill” offer for the Aug 2-3 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet that will bring together heads of state and leaders of eight countries.

But it warned that the LTTE “will be forced to take defensive actions” if the government carried out military operations during this 10-day period.

The Tigers’ political wing said in a statement e-mailed to the media that it was always keen to develop friendship with countries around the world, especially neighbouring countries.

“We wish to express the goodwill and trust of the Tamil people. As a sign of this goodwill, our movement is glad to inform that it will observe a unilateral ceasefire that is devoid of military actions during the period of the SAARC conference from July 26 to Aug 4 and give our cooperation for the success of the conference,” it said.

“We wish for the success of the SAARC conference and also extend our goodwill, and support to the countries of our region - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives,” the statement said.

The LTTE accused successive governments in Sri Lanka of not trying to “put forward a just solution to the national question of the Tamil people”. The politics in Sri Lanka “has today taken the form of a monstrous war”.

The truce offer comes when government troops claimed to have captured fresh rebel strongholds in the northwestern Mannar district where heavy fighting is raging on. Mannar is located 315 km northwest of Colombo.

A Sri Lankan minister Tuesday expressed scepticism about the truce offer and said the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was unlikely to accept it.

“I do not think that the government will fall into this trap, because we have enough experience with these kinds of offers of ceasefire from the LTTE in the past 30 to 40 years,” defence spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella told IANS.

Rambukwella also said that the truce offer from the LTTE was coming at a time “when they are getting heavily beaten by the advancing government troops in all fronts in the north.

“Our (the government) position is very clear that we can consider any such truce offer from the LTTE only (when it lays) down their weapons,” the spokesperson said.

On Sunday, the military said that troops had captured Iluppaikkadavai, located 12 km north of Vidattaltivu, which they captured Wednesday along with a strong Sea Tiger base.

According to the military, the capture of Vidattaltivu, 20 km north of Mannar town, will badly hit the LTTE’ arms smuggling at sea.

President Rajapaksa, who has vowed to eradicate terrorism in the country, has declared that defeating the Tamil Tigers was a pre-requisite for any political solution to the ethnic crisis.

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