The Sri Lankan government on Thursday rejected a Tamil Tiger rebel demand that ceasefire monitors from European Union countries be excluded from the truce team.
"The government rejects such demands outrightly," the government's top spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, said.
The rebels on Wednesday said anyone from Finland, Sweden or Denmark be excluded from Sri Lanka's Nordic peace monitoring mission because those countries belong to the European Union, which lists the Tigers as a terrorist group.
The latest twist in rebel-government relations came amid a surge in violence between the insurgents and the government, threatening the 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.
The Tigers, who want a homeland for the country's minority Tamils, made their demand on Wednesday during a meeting with Norway's ambassador in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.
After the ceasefire, Norway formed the monitoring team from Nordic countries. Norway and Iceland, the other two members of the monitoring mission, are not EU members.
"The LTTE can go on and make any number of requests, but we are not going to agree," Rambukwella said, referring to the rebels by their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Last month, the 25-nation EU listed the rebels as a terrorist organisation. The rebels are already banned in the United States, Canada, Britain and in neighbouring India.
Discrimination against Sri Lanka's 3.2 million largely Hindu Tamils led the Tigers to take up arms in 1983.
The spark was anti-Tamil riots, and the resulting war on this tropical island of 19 million people — nearly three-quarters of them Sinhalese — left more than 65,000 people dead before a 2002 ceasefire.
But talks to build on the truce soon faltered, and rising tensions in recent months spiked further following the bombing of a passenger bus last week that killed 64 people — the worst single act of violence since the ceasefire.
The government, diplomats and many ordinary Sinhalese blamed the Tigers, and the military responded by bombing rebels positions for two days.