EU ban on Sri Lanka rebels will only lead to war: rebel negotiator

COLOMBO, May 19, 2006 (AFP) – A European Union ban on Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels will only lead to war in the country, the rebels’ top negotiator said in comments received Friday.

The statement by Anton Balasingham came as Sri Lanka’s foreign minister visited Japan where he sought the help of donor nations to nudge the rebels back to negotiations.

Balasingham’s comments — quoted by the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website — followed a visit to Sri Lanka by a US State Department official who on Tuesday said Washington had encouraged the 25-member European Union to ban the Tigers, declare them a terrorist group and cut off their international funding.

“Emboldened by international support, and especially by further proscriptions of the LTTE, the Sinhala hardline elements will undoubtedly take steps to further escalate the violence and precipitate a war in which they hope to destroy the LTTE,” said Balasingham.

He has led delegations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in negotiations with various Sri Lankan governments.

“If this happens, the LTTE will be compelled to resist,” he was quoted as saying.

The Tigers are fighting for a minority Tamil