Tamil Tiger rebels are insisting that truce monitors from EU countries quit Sri Lanka despite efforts by peace broker Norway to persuade them to drop their demand, the government said on Wednesday.
Norway's top peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer told the government that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were demanding monitors from Denmark, Finland and Sweden must leave by the original deadline of September 1.
A government statement said that Hanssen-Bauer briefed Sri Lanka's government on Tuesday after his three-day visit to the island's northern and eastern regions where he held talks with Tamil Tiger leaders.
"He stated that he was disappointed that the LTTE had not changed its position regarding the expulsion of EU nationals from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)," the statement said.
It said Hanssen-Bauer discussed with Colombo the "transitional stage of the SLMM in the run up to the LTTE ultimatum and possible options to re-constitute the SLMM to its current strength."
The Tigers asked the European Union member states to take back their nationals from the monitoring mission after the EU in May designated the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group.
The Swedish-led SLMM has said that the Tiger demand for monitors from EU member states Denmark, Finland and Sweden to withdraw their staff would lead to a virtual collapse of monitoring of the February 2002 truce.
The Tigers last month reiterated to visiting Swedish envoy Anders Oljelund that ceasefire monitors from EU member states must go.
Diplomatic sources close to the peace process said Hanssen-Bauer tried and failed to persuade the Tigers to drop their demand, or at least put off the deadline until Norway had more time to reconstitute the SLMM.
The Sri Lankan government maintains that any change in the composition of the SLMM must be done in consultation with Colombo and unilateral action would be resisted.
The truce is the centrepiece of Norwegian-backed attempts at a political solution to the island's drawn out Tamil separatist conflict.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in a guerrilla war led by the Tigers to carve out a separate homeland for the island's minority Tamil community in this Sinhalese majority republic.