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Sri Lanka envoys seek more security

The demand follows the Batticaloa incident in which some envoys were attacked, reports PK Balachandran.
None | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2007 02:32 AM IST

Following the ugly incident in Batticaloa on April 28, when the LTTE greeted a group of visiting foreign envoys with a mortar barrage, Ambassadors of four countries have sought increased security for themselves and their missions.

The request was made at a briefing on the incident which the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, gave to the diplomatic community here on Friday, the state-owned Daily News said.

Interestingly, the request for more security was made by the Chinese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Palestinian envoys, and not by the Ambassadors who were subjected to the attack in Batticaloa, Hindustan Times learns.

The majority of the envoys present at the minister's briefing, including the US and Italian Ambassadors who were hurt in the firing, were content to listen to the minister's prepared statement and had offered no comment, it is learnt.

The minister himself told the media that no envoy raised the issue of security during the Batticaloa visit.

Contacting the diplomatic community before the government did, the LTTE had explained its action saying that it would not have fired if it had been informed in advance about the envoys' visit, as per the set procedure.

Responding to the LTTE's contention, the government's Defense Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, had told the media that government could not be expected to keep a "terrorist group" informed. Moreover, there was no set procedure in regard to such visits "in this area" he had contended.

Political circles here are puzzled by the fact that the international community is silent on this incident, in which Ambassadors of several countries, including the Super Power US, had had a close shave.

General threat from LTTE

The plea for greater security by the four Ambassadors apparently stemmed from a perception of a general and diffuse threat from the LTTE, rather than Tuesday's incident, specifically.

As minister Bogollagama said, the Batticalao outrage was the third in a series of attacks by the LTTE on foreign envoys. It had earlier attacked the visiting Italian Deputy Foreign Minister and the Pakistani Ambassador, Bashir Wali Mohmand.

Not irresponsible

Minister Bogollogama trashed allegations that the government had acted "irresponsibly" by taking the envoys' to Batticaloa which had been seeing artillery and mortar shelling, besides air action.

Daily News quoted him as saying that the envoys were taken there because it was important for the international community to get first hand experience of the ground situation. The US ambassador and others were fully aware of the risks involved, he stressed. The envoys had earlier gone on a similar "needs assessment mission" to Jaffna in the North, he pointed out.

The experience in Batticaloa should be a basis for exerting international pressure on the LTTE to give up violence, Bogollagama said. Government would release a report on the incident in five days.

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