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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 16:56 GMT
US criticises Tamil Tiger smuggling
Tamil Tiger chief negotiator Anton Balasingham and chief government negotiator GL Peiris in Berlin
The US praised both sides for progress on human rights
The United States has called a recent attempt by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels to smuggle arms "highly destabilising" and urged them to commit fully to the peace process.

Three rebels died when they blew up their boat on 7 February after truce monitors had boarded it off Jaffna.

We urge the LTTE to commit itself fully to peace and desist from arms re-supply efforts

US embassy in Colombo
The US embassy in Colombo said the incident could cast doubt on whether the Tigers were fully behind a negotiated peace.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan army says it is investigating an incident in northern Jaffna peninsula in which troops and Tamil Tiger women came to blows.

The punches were thrown by both sides after soldiers forcibly removed military-style belts from eight female fighters.

International cease-fire monitors said the women's belts constituted a uniform and were therefore in violation of the cease-fire agreement.

Blast

Referring to arms smuggling, a US embassy statement said: "The apparent attempt to smuggle arms into Sri Lanka during the course of the peace process was highly destabilising and could call into question the Tigers' stated wish to pursue a negotiated settlement."

Praising the truce monitors for performing their duties despite personal risk, the embassy urged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to "commit itself fully to peace and desist from arms re-supply efforts".

The monitors found 23 mm guns, ammunition for AK-47s and three hand grenades on the boat.

They left the vessel before it exploded and were not hurt.

The explosion occurred hours before a fifth round of peace talks began in Berlin and forced delegates into a damage limitation exercise.

The Tigers said the vessel blown up was a fishing trawler which had developed engine trouble.

Delayed decisions

The embassy statement praised the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tigers for their progress on human rights and resettlement issues.

Tamil Tiger soldier
The Tigers said the boat that blew up was a trawler
However, the next key meeting between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tigers has been postponed for two weeks because the rebels want to speak to Tamils living in Germany.

Following the Tigers' call for a delay, the joint subcommittee that is addressing rehabilitation and reconstruction will now meet in the eastern town of Trincomalee on 27-28 February.

The meeting had been scheduled for 13-14 February.

The delay will push back important decisions about efforts to send home hundreds of thousands of displaced people, mostly Tamils.

Norway brokered a truce in Sri Lanka in February 2002 and has been mediating talks to end the war that has killed 64,000 since 1983.

Five rounds of peace talks have been held in an attempt to end the conflict.


Peace efforts

Background

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TALKING POINT
See also:

09 Feb 03 | South Asia
07 Feb 03 | South Asia
09 Feb 03 | South Asia
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