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Burns calls LTTE a reprehensible terror group

The US Under Secy of State described LTTE as a reprehensible terror group keeping Lanka on the edge of war, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 19:26 IST

The US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns on Monday described the LTTE as a "reprehensible terrorist group keeping Sri Lanka on the edge of war."

Speaking to newspersons in Colombo, the visiting US official said that the LTTE was primarily responsible for the spiraling violence in the island.

Burns contrasted the LTTE with the Sri Lankan government, describing the latter as "democratic" and as being composed of "responsible persons who want peace".

He admitted that the Tamils of Sri Lanka had many grievances and that the Tamil paramilitaries (associated with the Sri Lankan armed forces) were also responsible for some of the killings. These issues had to be investigated by the Sri Lankan government and the attacks stopped, he said.

However, it was the LTTE which was responsible for the current violence because it was wedded to violence, he said. It must eschew violence and choose the path of peace.

Warning the LTTE of international isolation if it went to war, Burns said that neither the US nor any other country would have any relationship with it if it went to war.

The US, Burns said, was committed to maintaining the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic problem of the island.

"It's just short of war," says Solheim.

Earlier in the day, the Norwegian special envoy Erik Solheim told foreign correspondents that the situation in Sri Lanka was "just short of all out war."

But it was very hard to see this kind of violence continuing indefinitely because the two parties, namely, the government and the LTTE, were eager to stop the killings, he said.

The only way in which Sri Lanka could come back from the brink was to start talking, Solheim said.

According to peace broker, the ticklish question is not the venue of the talks (as many may think) but what the two sides will talk about if they do meet.

Asked about the LTTE's insistence that the talks should be held only in Oslo and the Sri Lankan government's insistence that they should not be held in Oslo, Solheim said that as far as Norway was concerned, it was prepared to accept any venue. "Even the moon," as he put it.

First Published: Jan 23, 2006 11:56 IST