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Lanka war: Water may not be real issue

The LTTE blocked the flow of water from the Mavil Aaru dam in Trincomalee district on July 20.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2006 22:07 IST

The head of the Nordic truce monitoring mission, Major General Ulf Henricsson, hinted on Monday that water might not be the real issue behind the on-going military clash between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in North Eastern Sri Lanka.

Referring to the series of attacks against targets across the North-East over the last six days, General Henricsson said that these would not have been attacked if water was the real issue.

"The Ilakkantai Sea Tiger base was not bombed for water," he remarked.

According to him the LTTE blocked the flow of water from the Mavil Aaru dam in Trincomalee district on July 20, to press the government for attention.

The government dispatched the air force to bomb the LTTE.

"The LTTE wanted such a reaction from the government," Henricsson said.

He would not answer the question as to what the two sides were really wanting, if it was not water.

Full scale war not on cards

The Swedish General did not think that the current operations would lead to a full scale war.

"Neither party is prepared for a full scale war," he explained.

He expected the conflict to peak before reducing, to pave the way for talks on the water issue.

On the bombing of LTTE airfields and the perceived threat from an LTTE air force, Henricsson said that the fear of the LTTE's air force was "political rather than military."

He said that neither the government nor the LTTE was allowing his personnel free access to the sites of a truce violation.

The government did not allow the monitors to inspect the site of the  blast in which the Army Commander Gen Sarath Fonseka was grievously injured and took two months to give the details. 
The LTTE did not give access to Karadiyanaru after the Sri Lankan Air Force bombed it.

Asked if they had something to hide, he said: "The truth might come out if there was monitoring," Henricsson said.

At any rate, pronouncements by the monitors were not crucial, because both sides knew who did what, he said.

On the claymore mine attack on a bus load of people in Kebetigollawa in North Central Sri Lanka, in which dozens of women and children were killed, he said that there were "no strong indications" that it was the handiwork of the LTTE.

Henricsson said that he would not know how the Karuna group, with about 500 men, could operate in government-held areas if it did not have get the support of the security forces in some way or the other.

On the LTTE's demand that the monitors from the European Union (EU) countries should quit by September 1, he said that it was not a valid demand because the monitors did not represent their countries.

They were like UN officials who served the UN and not their countries.

He asked how the LTTE  could take aid from the EU countries but not allow them to be members of the truce monitoring team.

Henricsson said that if there  were attacks on the monitors, the LTTE could invite more proscriptions across the world, and at any rate, he would not meet LTTE officials.