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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"India has put its military on standby"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Push for Sri Lankan peace
Thomas Pickering with Lalit Mansingh
US official Thomas Pickering says his country will back any peace effort
Efforts are on to find a peaceful solution to the Sri Lankan crisis in the Indian capital Delhi, even as fighting continues.

A Norwegian envoy briefed Indian officials on his country's role in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil rebels.

A US official also backed Norway's role as a facilitator and said Washington would also back any role taken by India.

We clearly believe that humanitarian considerations have become paramount

Thomas Pickering
But in Colombo, a bomb exploded outside the Norwegian embassy - a reminder that not everybody supported the peace moves.

The explosive shattered windows at the embassy, in the middle of the city's diplomatic quarter, but there are no reports of any casualties.

Peace moves

Norwegian special envoy, Erik Solheim, said he had received encouragement from India about Norway's role as a facilitator, after he met with Indian Foreign Secretary, Lalit Mansingh.

"We will try to find a solution both to the present situation at the peninsula and also to the long time settlement of the Tamil aspirations within the context of the integrity of Sri Lanka," he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, who was also in Delhi, said Washington was concerned over the plight of civilians in the embattled north.

"We clearly believe that humanitarian considerations have become paramount and we believe that everything must be done to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Sri Lanka," Mr Pickering said.

The Indian Government has placed the navy on alert amid suggestions that it might help evacuate Sri Lankan soldiers trapped in Jaffna.

But it says it is waiting for a request from Colombo - something that it says it has not yet received.

Battle shifts

Fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tigers rebels spread to the east of the country on Wednesday.

It was the first upsurge in fighting there since the Tigers launched an offensive in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Sri Lankan military officials confirmed that the Tigers had attacked an army camp and air force base at Batticaloa, 300 km east of Colombo.

Mortars were said to have been aimed at the army HQ inside Batticaloa.

One soldier was reported killed.

The officials said the government had responded by using helicopter gunships to attack Tiger positions east of Jaffna.

Only sporadic fighting was reported elsewhere in the Jaffna peninsula, where government forces have been battling to halt a major Tamil Tiger offensive.

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See also:

21 May 00 | South Asia
Tigers 'take key Jaffna town'
23 Feb 00 | South Asia
What chance peace in Sri Lanka?
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Norway role in Sri Lanka peace plan
09 May 00 | South Asia
Timeline of the Tamil conflict
17 May 00 | South Asia
Terror on Sri Lankan faultline
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