LTTE offers unilateral truce for SAARC summit (Lead)

July 22nd, 2008 - 9:11 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, July 22 (IANS) The Tamil Tiger guerrillas Monday night offered unilateral truce with the Sri Lankan government between July 26 and Aug 4, as a sign of “goodwill” for the upcoming SAARC summit that opens here Aug 2. Claiming that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was always keen to develop friendship with the countries around the world and especially the neighbouring countries, the group however warned that it would retaliate if the government troops disregarded its “goodwill gesture” and carried out military operations.

“We wish to express the good will 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,” the LTTE’s political wing said in an e-mail statement to the media late Monday night.

At the same time, if the government carried out military operations, “our movement will be forced to take defensive actions”, it said.

The LTTE statement also stressed that the group was “sincere” in its efforts to create the external conditions in order to develop friendship with countries in the region.

“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 Maldives,” the LTTE statement said.

The statement also blamed the successive governments of the country for 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”, it added.

The truce offer by the LTTE has come at a time when the government troops claimed to have captured fresh rebel strongholds in the northwestern Mannar district where heavy fighting was still going on.

Mannar is located some 315 km northwest of Colombo.

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

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

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has vowed to eradicate terrorism in the island nation, has recently reiterated his government’s position that defeating the Tamil Tigers is a pre-requisite for any political solution to the bloody ethnic crisis.

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