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Rajapaksa's refusal 'childish', says LTTE

Head of LTTE's political wing has said that President Rajapaksa's refusal to consider a separate Tamil homeland is "childish".

india Updated: Feb 16, 2006 13:46 IST

Talks between Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers next week will determine if there is peace or war, the rebels said, branding President Mahinda Rajapaksa's refusal to consider a separate Tamil homeland as "childish".

Suspected rebel attacks in December and January all but destroyed a Norway-brokered 2002 ceasefire, but violence fell after the two sides agreed to meet in Switzerland.

The rebels said that did not mean the country was further from a return to a two-decade civil war.

"That is totally dependent on the outcome of this meeting," SP Tamilselvan, head of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.

He said the talks would centre on implementing the terms of the truce.

"It's very unfortunate that we have to go back four years and again speak of implementation. Frustration, restlessness, anger, all are there. But we are people who believe in the use of political civilisation."

Asked if the talks would decide if Sri Lanka was headed towards peace or war, he said: "Yes".

The LTTE delegation will leave on Friday ahead of the two-day talks the following week -- the first high-level talks since direct negotiations broke down in 2003.

Tamilselvan again denied any direct LTTE involvement in ambushes on troops in government held-areas that killed dozens of soldiers and sailors in January and December, saying angry Tamil civilian groups outside rebel control carried them out.

Few analysts or diplomats believe them, and some still expect a return to a war that killed more than 64,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

On Monday, Rajapaksa told the agency that a separate homeland or a separate state for the island's Tamil minority was out of the question. The rebels were not happy.

"Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement seems to us very childish and not with the ground reality," Tamilselvan said through an interpreter in the de facto rebel capital, Kilinochchi, from which they run roughly a seventh of Sri Lanka.

"We don't believe that that kind of childish statement will help resolve a conflict of this nature."

In Kilinochchi, a small town that has grown in four years of peace but which still bears scars from aerial bombing, many rebel supporters say a separate state is vital.

But Tamilselvan was less precise over whether an eventual homeland in the Tamil-dominated north must be a country in its own right.

"Any solution to the Tamil national problem should involve the concept of a Tamil homeland, nationhood and the right of self determination and provide the people with a dignified solution," he said.

"If all those elements are implemented, then we can address the question of whether it is a separate state or a devolved concept."

But a long-term solution to Sri Lanka's war will not be on the table at the talks, which will concentrate on making the truce work, and diplomats say the best likely outcome is simply the two sides agreeing to meet again.

The Tigers want the army out of civilian areas and Tamil homes occupied by the military returned.

They say the key issue is the disarming of groups such as Karuna's -- a Tiger renegade -- who they blame for attacks on them and the abduction of seven pro-rebel aid workers.

On Monday, Rajapaksa said the government was willing to disarm any armed group operating from government territory, but the rebels are not convinced.

"The present government is not at all interested in curbing the acts of the armed groups," Tamilselvan said. "It is only on one side the violence has receded.

First Published: Feb 16, 2006 11:34 IST