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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Sri Lanka weapons plan

By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Colombo

A retired Indian general has suggested the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels simultaneously de-commission their long-range heavy weapons as part of a plan to end the country's civil war.

Sri Lankan troops in Jaffna
The army has huge camps in the north

General Satish Nambiar was brought in as an independent consultant after both sides reached a deadlock over the presence of army high security zones in northern Sri Lanka.

The zones are preventing tens of thousands of civilians from returning home.

What is perhaps most interesting about General Nambiar's report are the general comments about the state of the peace process.

He talks of the Sri Lankan army's continued sense of deep suspicion towards the rebels.

He says military commanders at various levels have much difficulty in coming to terms with the reality of the status of the Tamil Tigers as a party to the peace process.

And he says the political posturing in the south of the country means the army doesn't want to be seen as endorsing anything portrayed as a concession to the rebels.

Political concerns

General Nambiar also says there is justifiable concern about rebel activities such as child recruitment, abduction, extortion and weapons smuggling.

Tamil Tigers boat
The monitors should have a wider role at sea, the general says

And he says there is much concern about the political work which the Tigers are now allowed to conduct in government-controlled areas which he suggests should be more precisely defined and policed.

There is also criticism of the Scandinavian monitoring team whose mandate he says needs reviewing.

The Indian general says the current truce monitors should conduct maritime and aerial patrols and have more access to the media to explain their work.

On the issue of high security zones, General Nambiar's proposal is to dismantle selectively and in stages both the rebel and army military positions using international observers to monitor and conduct surprise inspections.

The idea is to reduce the need for the Sri Lankan army to maintain huge military camps to defend themselves against the long-range weapons of the Tigers.

Then General Nambiar says the soldiers can be re-housed in prefabricated shelters elsewhere and civilians can reoccupy their land.

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