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Swedish officer to oversee Lanka's ceasefire

Ulf Henricsson, 64, becomes the first non-Norwegian to lead the mission that was set up to oversee the truce between Lanka and LTTE.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 13:47 IST

A retired Swedish general on Saturday took over command of monitoring Sri Lanka's ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels, which has come under increasing strain amid spiralling violence.

Ulf Henricsson, 64, becomes the first non-Norwegian to lead the mission that was set up to oversee the Norwegian-brokered 2002 ceasefire that halted Sri Lanka's almost two decades of war.

Henricsson succeeds Norwegian Brig. Gen. Hagrup Haukland, who joined the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, or SLMM, as chief of staff in 2002 and became its leader in 2005.

Tension has been mounting in Sri Lanka since Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran warned in November that he would renew the violent struggle for an independent Tamil homeland if grievances with the government are not addressed.

A series of violent incidents, which followed that have put the truce under strain.

Since December, at least 166 people, including 87 government security personnel, have been killed in violence blamed mostly on the rebels.

The two sides met in Geneva in February and agreed to avoid violating the truce. But last month saw several incidents that have again added to the tension.

The appointment came ahead of the second round of peace talks between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government in Geneva later in April.

The 60-member cease-fire mission is made up of observers from the Nordic countries, but this was the first time Norway opened the leadership post for applicants from the other countries.

Henricsson began his military career in 1969 and was promoted through the ranks until he became a Brigadier General in 1994.

He commanded a variety of neutral Sweden's military units. In 1993 and 1994, he commanded the Nordic Battelgroup UNPROFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina while the Balkan war still raged.

He also led the Organization for Security and Cooperation's department for regional stabilization in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999 through 2001.