Tamil Tigers condemn snap poll

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have said a snap poll called by the president is a "grave setback" to peace efforts.

    The Tigers have been fighting the government for 20 years

    But the separatist group added it would stick to

    a February 2002 ceasefire with the government.

    "Our liberation organisation will rigidly observe the

    ceasefire regulations and maintain peace," chief

    negotiator Anton Balasingham was quoted as saying on the

    TamilNet website on Monday.

    President Chandrika Kumaratunga

    dissolved parliament on Sunday and set an election for 2 April,

    further delaying efforts to restart peace talks that have been

    on hold for 10 months.

    Kumaratunga, who takes a harder line with the Tigers than

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the election to try

    to break a stalemate between the two

    over how to handle the

    peace bid.

    Prime minister (L) and president
    are bitter political foes 

    Civil war

    "The irrational lack of consensus among the Sinhala ruling

    elites on the resolution of the ethnic conflict has plunged the

    entire country into serious political instability,"

    Balasingham, who is based in London, said.

    The Tigers are fighting for a separate homeland in the

    north and east regions of the island for minority Tamils,

    saying they are discriminated against by the Sinhalese

    majority.

    The rebels have said they will negotiate with any leader

    who wins a mandate.

    But they have made no secret of their

    dislike for Kumaratunga, who they tried to kill in a 1999

    bomb attack.

    The Norwegian-brokered ceasefire has given Sri Lanka its

    longest lull in fighting since the start of the war in 1983.

    About 64,000 people have been killed since then in a brutal conflict that has devastated the resource-rich island.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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