Artillery duels in Sri Lanka as Norway bid fails

Dec 9, 2006 (AFP) – Troops and Tamil Tiger rebels traded long-range artillery and mortar bombs in north-eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday, a day after a fresh Norwegian peace attempt failed, officials said.

The two sides were exchanging long-range attacks in the district of Trincomalee where four soldiers and several civilians were wounded on Saturday, local officials said.

The renewed attacks came as peacebroker Norway failed on Friday to secure an agreement to end a blockade on the Jaffna peninsula where nearly half a million people are trapped by fighting.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they told Oslo’s envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer to persuade the government to open the land access to the embattled north without conditions.

The government had asked Hanssen-Bauer to secure a deal with the Tigers to allow a convoy of some 400 trucks to travel through rebel-held territory, but the Tigers rejected a one-off convoy.

Instead, the LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan told Hanssen-Bauer the government must open a disputed highway to Jaffna, as well as another highway to the island’s east.

The Tamil Tigers have been campaigning for independence for th