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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 15:11 GMT
Tiger warning over ceasefire
Tamil Tiger fighters
The Tiger ceasefire is due to expire next week
By Frances Harrison in Colombo

Tamil Tiger rebels fighting the Sri Lanka Government say they will not renew their unilateral ceasefire due to expire next week, unless the army suspends its latest offensive against them.

Government soldiers
The government launched a major offensive this week
This is the most direct warning from the Tamil Tigers yet - that this is the last hope for the current peace initiative being brokered by Norway.

The main rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham, speaking to a Jaffna newspaper Uthayan, said the Tamil Tigers had already made enough concessions for peace and couldn't be expected to make any more.

The Tigers want the government to suspend its latest military offensive.

If not, they say peace initiatives will have to wait until they have driven government troops back to their previous positions.

Mr Balasingham said the Tigers were sincere about peace.

'Set on war'

But he said that everything now hinged on the Sri Lankan Government, which he described as fiercely determined to prosecute the war.

According to Mr Balasingham, the rebel side has been favourably considering Norwegian proposals for confidence building between the two sides.

These, he said, would involve the government lifting its economic embargo on rebel-controlled areas.

Economic embargo

While in return the Tigers would stop all bomb attacks in the south of the island.

But the government has recently said there is no economic embargo, describing it as a myth and rebel propaganda .

So it is hard to see how it could have agreed to lift something it says is not in force.

And the government has said it will not stop fighting until negotiations have started and made some progress because it doesn't trust the rebel side not to exploit any lull in the conflict to regroup.

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See also:

18 Jan 01 | South Asia
Tigers 'must offer peace plan'
16 Jan 01 | South Asia
Sri Lankan army in major push
12 Jan 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka talks still in doubt
22 Dec 00 | South Asia
Tigers' ceasefire labelled a 'gimmick'
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