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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK
Sri Lankan peace on the ropes
By Ethirajan Anbarasan
BBC News Tamil service

Yet another suicide attack in the Sri Lankan capital and the government has responded by unleashing air strikes on Tamil rebel positions in the east. So, is this war?

Ground realities clearly suggest that the 2002 ceasefire agreement exists only on paper and unless the cycle of violence is stopped it will be difficult to prevent the country from sliding into full-scale war.

Troops at army headquarters
No-one expected such a daring attack on army HQ
But to the relief of many, in an address to the nation on Tuesday, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse expressed hope that peace process could still be saved while at the same time issuing a stern warning to the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The rebels, meanwhile, have not reacted so far to the reportedly intense shelling by the Sri Lankan air force, navy and army in the eastern Trincomalee region. It is a matter of time before they respond.

Only a few days ago, there was a glimmer of hope that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government would participate in a second round of peace talks in Geneva.

In fact, Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer is still in Colombo hoping to persuade the rebels to attend the talks.

Tit-for-tat attacks

Citing attacks on the security forces, the government had earlier refused to give military helicopters to transport LTTE's eastern commanders from the east to the north to meet their leaders.

Tamil Tiger suicide attackers
Both sides have been blamed for escalating the violence
The Tamil rebel leadership, which insists on discussing the ground situation with eastern leaders before the second round of Geneva peace talks, was not prepared to fly its commanders by private helicopter.

Officially, the 2002 ceasefire agreement still holds. But more than 200 soldiers, rebels and civilians have been killed in various violent incidents since last November. Rebels and government forces have been accusing each other of carrying out tit-for-tat attacks.

Analysts blame both parties for the escalation of violence and also for not keeping up the promises made in Geneva in February this year. Attacks on security forces did not subside and the rebels accused the government of not disarming paramilitary groups in the eastern region.

'Wake-up call'

But no-one expected such a daring attack on army chief Lt-Gen Sarath Fonseka in the capital, where life was relatively normal despite the trouble in the Tamil-dominated north and east.

Massive co-ordinated international effort is needed to contain the situation. Norway alone cannot do that
D B S Jeyaraj

"Maybe the Tiger rebels wanted to give a wake-up call to the government," retired Sri Lankan vice Air Marshal Harry Goonathilake told the BBC. He says the only way forward is to implement the promises made in Geneva talks.

At the moment, Norwegian mediators seem to be struggling to bring both parties together. Also, the international ceasefire monitors say their small team of 60 members cannot cope with the escalating violent incidents.

With events spiralling out of control, it looks like Norwegian facilitation alone cannot save the faltering peace process now.

"Massive co-ordinated international effort is needed to contain the situation. Norway alone cannot do that," says Sri Lankan analyst D B S Jeyaraj.

Though for the moment both parties insist that they will abide by the ceasefire agreement it looks like ongoing events may influence their decisions and outcomes.

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