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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Sri Lanka monitors 'will not go'
By Dumeetha Luthra
BBC News, Colombo

Ulf Henricsson
Ulf Henricsson's monitors say both sides have violated the ceasefire
International truce monitors in Sri Lanka say they will not pull out even though they say they are now monitoring a war rather than a ceasefire.

The head of mission, Ulf Henricsson, told the BBC the ceasefire was only intact on paper but it was still important to maintain a presence.

Almost 300 people have been killed in the recent upsurge of violence.

The international monitors have been present in Sri Lanka since a ceasefire was signed in 2002.

Several clashes

In the past month the monitors have ruled that both the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels have seriously violated the truce.

Relatives mourn Tamils killed on Kayts islet
Relatives mourn Tamils killed near Jaffna last weekend

They have been caught up in several clashes between the two sides.

In the most recent, they were escorting a navy patrol when the Tigers attacked, despite knowing there were international observers on board.

However, Mr Henricsson, the head of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), said in a BBC interview that it was vital that the monitors stay.

"If we should terminate the ceasefire agreement, then we have no platform to come back and start to talk from. And as long as the mission is still in the country, we can monitor the ceasefire," he said.

His comments come as Sri Lanka faces its worst crisis since the ceasefire was signed.

While this is not considered a war in the traditional sense with front lines and tanks rolling down the streets, it is now seen as a guerrilla war with regular clashes between both sides.

The hope is that peace talks could avert a further escalation in the violence.

The reality is no-one expects talks to be held in the near future.

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