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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Tigers 'regret' monitors' detention
Marine troops of the Tamil Tigers on the beach
The Tamil Tigers have a substantial naval arm
Tamil Tigers rebels in Sri Lanka have expressed their regret over an incident in which two Norwegian peace monitors were held aboard a vessel off the northern coast of the island last weekend.

General Furuhovde with rebel chief Prabhakaran
The monitors' trust in the rebels has been shaken
"They regretted what had happened to our monitors and stated they have full confidence in the mission," Hagrup Haukland, a spokesman for the peace mission, said after a meeting with the rebels.

Earlier, the Tigers' political chief, Mr Tamilselvan, said in a letter to the Norwegians that the monitors were kept on board the boat in the interests of their own personal safety.

They had denied holding them against their will.

The monitors were called in after Sri Lankan navy vessels intercepted the Tiger vessel, which was allegedly in violation of the current ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

The Sri Lankan Government and the rebels signed a permanent truce in January, aimed at paving the way for peace talks to end two decades of civil war.

Confidence blow

On Sunday, General Furuhovde described the incident as a serious violation of the ceasefire agreement and a major blow to Norwegian confidence in the Tigers.

Rebel troops train in amphibious combat
Rebel boats broke the ceasefire agreement

According to the monitors, two Tiger trawlers were spotted and intercepted late on Saturday by the Sri Lankan navy.

One trawler fled the scene, and the navy called in the monitors to investigate the remaining vessel.

The monitors say they got permission from Tiger leaders to board the vessel, where they found communications equipment in breach of the ceasefire agreement.

The monitors say they then recommended the navy take custody of the vessel, but were then held against their will when four rebel soldiers on board refused to disembark and sailed away.

They were later released at a rebel port.

Violations

The Tamil Tigers say the trawler was fired at and rammed by Sri Lankan Navy vessels, forcing it to take evasive action with the monitors still on board.

Sri Lankan Navy Commander Daya Sandagiri denied the allegation, saying the trawler was clearly not being used for fishing purposes.

On Monday, the monitoring mission said it would review its sea operations following the incident.

Peace talks between the two sides are due to be held in Thailand, but no firm start date has as yet been confirmed.


Peace efforts

Background

BBC SINHALA SERVICE

BBC TAMIL SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

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02 May 02 | South Asia
21 Feb 02 | South Asia
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