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Finland, Denmark quit truce panel

This came even as bombing of the LTTE-controlled areas by Lankan forces continued, reports PK Balachandran.
None | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUL 31, 2006 06:24 PM IST

The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombed the LTTE-controlled areas of the North Eastern Province for the third day in succession on Friday, even as Finland and Denmark announced their withdrawal from the truce-monitoring mission.

The government defence spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwela, told newspersons that SLAF bombed the Verugal river area close to the Mavil Aaru dam, as part of the continuing efforts to clear the place of the LTTE and send state officials to open the dam's sluice gates.

The sluice gates were shut by the LTTE on July 20, depriving 15,000 Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim families of water to cultivate 30,000 acres of paddy land.

Military operations would continue till the objective was obtained, Rambukwela said.

The Director General of the government Peace Secretariat Dr Palitha Kohona said that the LTTE's act of blocking the flow of water was against even the norms of war because never in history had warring parties blocked water.

On the LTTE's charge that the government had not built a water tank to supply water to LTTE-held areas like Mutur East and Echchilampathu, Dr Kohona said that government was committed to constructing it.

Referring to the LTTE's conditions for reopening the sluice gates, Defence spokesman Rambukwela said that the LTTE could not mix up other issues with the closure of the Mavil Aaru dam's sluice gates.

He said that water for irrigation had to be let out on time because crops would perish. Many children had fallen ill as a result of the stoppage of water.

The LTTE had drafted a list of four demands which had to be met before the sluice gates could be opened, and submitted it to the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Truce Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

These were, supply of water to Muttur East and Eachchilampathu; the removal of the economic embargo imposed on Muttur East and Echchilampathu; the provision of relief to 20,000 people displaced or affected by the aerial bombings and other kinds of shelling by the armed forces since April 25 and the removal of restrictions on the movement of people from Mutur East and Eachilampathu to government-controlled areas.

Air raids to destroy LTTE air fields

Referring to the air raid on a suspected LTTE airfield in Mullaitivu on Thursday, the government spokesman said such raids would continue till the LTTE's airfield or other air facilities were made non-operational.

The Air Force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha Silva said that the Air Force would not allow these illegal facilities to come up.

Finland and Denmark withdraw from monitoring panel

Meanwhile, Thorsinnur Omarsson, Spokesman of the truce monitors told Hindustan Times that Finland and Denmark had announced their withdrawal from the SLMM.

They had decided to quit following the LTTE's announcement that it would not recognize monitors from the EU countries because the EU had banned the LTTE and thus lost its neutrality.

The LTTE said that by September 1, the Norwegian peace brokers would have to replace the monitors from the EU countries.

Finland and Denmark had contributed 11 monitors each. The total number of monitors in the SLMM was 57.

The Norwegians would now have to find replacements only from Norway and Iceland, because these are the only Nordic countries outside the EU.

SLMM spokesman Omarsson said that the withdrawal of Finland and Denmark was a "very worrying development" from the point of view of the peace process in Sri Lanka.

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