Norway bids to save Sri Lanka from war, toll hits 326

Aug 5, 2006 (AFP) – Peacebroker Norway headed for crucial talks with Tamil Tiger rebels Saturday in a bid to stop bloody fighting that has claimed 326 lives by official count and displaced thousands. Oslo’s special envoy, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, travelled to the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi for what diplomats said were desperate talks to save a collapsing ceasefire amid fears of a return to full-scale war.

Hanssen-Bauer, who held talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Friday, is expected to spend the weekend in rebel-held territory.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) spokesman Velayadun Dayanidi said Hanssen-Bauer was expected to discuss the “war-like situation” with the guerrillas.

As Hanssen-Bauer headed for the talks, the defence ministry here said it had killed another 152 Tiger rebels in a major air, land and sea offensive in the northeastern town of Muttur.

There was no immediate reaction from the Tigers to the military’s claim, which raised the official body count in the latest round of fighting to 326 over the past 11 days.

“We have an estimated 152 Tigers killed and 124 injured, mainly in the air attacks