War is over, Patten warns Tamil Tigers

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The Independent Online

The European Union warned Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels yesterday not to revert to war and advised the ruthless guerrilla group to resume peace talks to end two decades of fighting.

"I made it plain ... that if violence returns, it will bring the impeccable condemnation and hostility of the international community," Chris Patten, the EU external relations commissioner, said after meeting the guerrilla commander Vellupillai Prabhakaran in the rebel capital of Kilinochchith.

Mr Patten, in Sri Lanka to show international support for ending the war that has left 65,000 dead, said he urged the Tigers to pursue peace talks that followed a ceasefire brokered by Norway in February, 2002. Six rounds of talks were held, but the rebels pulled out in April, saying they wanted more self-governing powers.

Earlier, a pro-rebel website said the Tigers told Mr Patten, they would not return to war, but put the onus on maintaining the ceasefire on the government. "Our leader ... told Mr Patten it is not at all in the hands of the Liberation Tigers to ensure there is no return to violence. It is completely up to the government," the chief rebel political official, SP Thamilselvan, wrote.

The Tiger insurgency was launched in 1983 to create a separate nation for minority Hindu Tamils, who claim discrimination by the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

In November, Sri Lanka's hardline President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, took over the ministries of defence, interior and media from her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, claiming he had made too many concessions to the rebels. The president also suspended parliament for two weeks and briefly declared emergency rule.(AP)