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Norway condemns suicide blast

Envoy Erik Solheim, however, said he was optimistic that the present flare-up in violence would end soon.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 11:33 IST

The main mediator in the Sri Lankan conflict, Erik Solheim of Norway, on Wednesday condemned the flare-up of violence on the war-torn island but said he was optimistic that it would end shortly.

Government forces have carried out coordinated air, sea and land attacks against rebel positions in the restive northeast since Tuesday, after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels seriously wounded the army chief and scores of others and killed 10 people in a suicide bombing at army headquarters.

"The developments on Tuesday are of course absolutely regrettable. We regret in the strongest terms the suicide (bombing) attempt on the (army) chief Sarath Fonseka and we call upon both the LTTE and the government to show the maximum restraint now," Solheim said.

"We are working with the parties on an hour-to-hour basis to do whatever possible to bring them back to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible and to put a stop to this violence," he said.

At least 80 people have been killed in bombings in the past two weeks alone while Tamil rebels say 70 civilians have been killed by pro-government militia or security forces, a charge denied by the military.

Solheim said however he did not believe the violence signified the end of a ceasefire in place since February 2002.

"Definitely not. Both parties have committed to us that they are still committed to the ceasefire. They have done it publicly and they have done it in all informal conversations with us. So definitely they're committed to the ceasefire," he said.

He stressed however that the government's strikes should not be interpreted as a sign of the resumption of the civil war.

"This is very far from what Sri Lanka suffered during (the) war. At that time at the maximum 1,000 people were killed in one week. So this is definitely not war," he said.

"But it is a spiral of violence which is completely unacceptable and we call upon both sides to put a stop to it. We are also somewhat optimistic that they will be able to do that in the next few days," he said.

Sri Lanka's long-running Tamil separatist conflict has claimed over 60,000 lives in the past three decades.