Japan peace envoy in peace amidst intense fighting

COLOMBO, Jan 14, 2008 (AFP) – A Japanese peace envoy began a second day of talks with Sri Lankan leaders Monday as the world community stepped up pressure over Colombo’s decision to abandon a truce with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The talks began as government warplanes bombed suspected rebel intelligence hideouts and fighting raged in the embattled north, the military said.

Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi’s three-day visit comes amid intense frontline fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the rebel-controlled north, with the military saying it killed 119 guerrillas over the weekend while two soldiers died.

The government said three more soldiers were killed Monday when rebels detonated a roadside bomb in Vavuniya, bringing the death toll to 375 rebels and 18 troops this month alone, according to the military.

There was no rebel comment on the military’s casualty claims, which cannot be independently verified as authorities allow no access to the embattled region. Airforce fighter jets staged sorties and destroyed the rebel facility in the guerrillas’ stronghold of Mullaittivu, the defence ministry said.

Japan, the biggest bilateral donor to Sri Lanka, has said foreign aid could be with