Tigers agree to review Sri Lanka truce, emergency extended
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have reportedly agreed to meet with the government and review their truce which was threatened following the assassination of the foreign minister, reported AFP.
Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had agreed to discuss ceasefire implementation with the Colombo government, the BBC said on its website citing the Norwegian peace broker.
The report came as Sri Lanka's parliament Thursday extended a state of emergency and President Chandrika Kumaratunga asked Norway to arrange an urgent meeting with Tiger rebels whom she has accused of assassinating her foreign minister.
The assembly voted 124-21 to extend for a month the tough emergency laws imposed by the president. They give extra powers to police probing last Friday's killing of Lakshman Kadirgamar, a stern critic of the Tigers.
"We need the emergency to investigate the assassination," Public Security Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said. "Tigers continue to violate the ceasefire and that is why we need the emergency laws to continue."
The rebels have denied any involvement in the killing, which has triggered fears that a ceasefire agreed in 2002 could collapse, reviving the separatist conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.
Kumaratunga wrote to Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, calling for talks with the LTTE to review their truce after the slaying and to prevent further political killings, her office said in a statement.
The president requested "an urgent meeting between the government and the LTTE... to review the practical functioning of the ceasefire with a view to preventing further killings and other violations," it said.
Her office said she wanted the peace broker and truce monitors to sit in on the talks.
On his return from Sri Lanka after attending Kadirgamar's funeral Monday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen met the LTTE's chief peace negotiator, the London-based Anton Balasingham, in London on Wednesday.
Kumaratunga's government was reduced to a minority in June when its main Marxist coalition partner walked out but it won opposition support Thursday for the emergency.
"We support the emergency on the basis it will be used only for this investigation and not against political opponents," a spokesman for the main opposition United National Party said.
Kumaratunga used emergency powers for the first time in 46 months to give more powers to security forces to arrest suspects in connection with the assassination.
Sri Lanka was under a state of emergency from March 1983 until October 2001, during the height of the civil war.
In November 2003 Kumaratunga announced a state of emergency during a political crisis but three days later retracted it.
The Tigers and Colombo began peace talks in September 2002 but the guerrillas pulled out in April 2003.