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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 10:54 GMT
Tiger warning over UK ban
Tiger commanders
The rebel group is fighting in northern Sri Lanka
By Frances Harrison in Colombo

Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in Sri Lanka have warned that the peace process will be seriously undermined if they are banned in Britain.

A decision on whether to include the Tigers on a list of organisations proscribed under new anti-terrorist legislation in the UK is expected shortly.

The announcement is eagerly awaited in Sri Lanka.

A senior Tamil Tiger leader living in London, Anton Balasingham, has said a ban in Britain would definitely scuttle efforts by Norwegian negotiators to broker peace.

In an interview with a rebel newspaper, Mr Balasingham said if Britain labelled the Tigers as terrorists, it would be a partisan move.

It would only encourage the Sri Lankan state to be intransigent in the peace negotiations.

'Draconian law'

Mr Balasingham, who is the chief negotiator for the Tigers, said a ban would also present practical difficulties because he might be forced to go underground or leave the UK.

He described the new British terrorism law as draconian and loosely conceptualised, complaining its definition of terrorism should not include armed resistance against state-sponsored genocide.

Mr Balasingham said because the logic of the new legislation allows state oppression but forbids violent protest by anyone else, the Tamil Tigers could be banned, even though their cause was legitimate.

Under the new law, membership of a proscribed group would become an offence in Britain, as would fundraising or inviting support.

The Sri Lankan Government and media have been campaigning vigorously for weeks for the Tigers to be banned.

They argue a ban will help end the 18-year-old war in the north of the island because it will curb the rebels' access to funds from expatriate Tamils living in Britain.

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See also:

19 Jan 01 | South Asia
Tiger warning over ceasefire
28 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka urges Tiger ban
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