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UK peace mission to LTTE HQ postponed

Scheduled visit of peace mission has been postponed in light of the delicate security situation in Lanka, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: May 03, 2007 14:16 IST

A visit by the British Deputy High Commissioner Leslie Craig to the LTTE's political headquarters in Kilinochchi to help kick start the stalled Sri Lankan peace process has been postponed indefinitely.

"The visit has been postponed, not cancelled," says High Commission spokesman John Cully, when asked if the visit planned for Thursday was on.

Unofficial sources said that Craig's visit might have been postponed given the delicate security situation in north Sri Lanka, where military operations are imminent.

Earlier, the Norwegian Ambassador Hans Brattskar's visit to Kilinichchi on April 23 had been postponed with the government telling him that the security situation was not conducive for the visit.

With the war in Sri Lanka escalating dangerously, Britain and the Commonwealth Secretariat have stepped in to help the beleaguered Norwegian peace brokers put the peace process on track.

It is clear that the duo do not intend to push Norway out, but they want to get the three estranged parties, namely, the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE and the Norwegians, to sit round a table and thrash out their problems, reactivate the Ceasefire Agreement, and infuse life into the peace process, a source in London told Hindustan Times.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka is none too pleased with peace broker Norway, as Oslo is seen to be pro-LTTE. Apparently, Colombo considers the UK a suitable substitute because the UK has banned the LTTE and has considerable clout over the Sri Lankan Tamil expatriate population which is quite a large and significant one in the UK.

Leverage is there because the LTTE relies heavily on the Sri Lankan expatriate and refugee populations in the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.

The first move to get UK on board was made by President Rajapaksa during his visit to the UK. Apparently, Tony Blair and he had hit it off, though, like External Development Minister Gareth Thomas said recently, Britain was concerned about human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and how the continued conflict and war were holding back the country's economic development.

However, matters had to wait until the British parliament formed a committee headed by Labour MP Keith Vaz to look into the Sri Lankan situation. Reports said on Wednesday, that the committee would work with the Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon to promote "peace with justice and dignity for the Tamils of Sri Lanka and work towards finding a solution to the ethnic conflict in the country."

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Dr Rowan Douglas Williams, will be in Sri Lanka from May 7 to 11. He will be meeting religious, civil society and political leaders.

The Bishops' House in Colombo said on Wednesday that the Archbishop's visit would help build trust across communities and cultures as he was sensitive to human suffering. It further said that the Archbishop was the kind of leader today's world needed "desperately."

However, political observers in Colombo wonder if the LTTE will accept UK as a serious mediator, when it has banned the group as a terrorist organisation. The LTTE had earlier refused to entertain ceasefire monitors from EU countries after the EU banned it.