Norway condemns Sri Lanka bombings but remains ‘optimistic’

OSLO, Apr.26 (AFP) – The main mediator in the Sri Lankan conflict, Erik Solheim of Norway, on Wednesday condemned the flare-up of violence on the war-torn island but said he was optimistic that it would end shortly. Government forces have carried out coordinated air, sea and land attacks against rebel positions in the restive northeast since Tuesday, after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels seriously wounded the army chief and scores of others and killed 10 people in a suicide bombing at army headquarters.

“The developments yesterday (Tuesday) are of course absolutely regrettable. We regret in the strongest terms the suicide (bombing) attempt on the (army) chief Sarath Fonseka and we call upon both the LTTE and the government to show the maximum restraint now,” Solheim told AFP in Oslo.

“We are working with the parties on an hour-to-hour basis to do whatever possible to bring them back to the negotiating table in Geneva as soon as possible and to put a stop to this violence,” he said.

At least 80 people have been killed in bombings in the past two weeks alone while Tamil rebels say 70 civilians have been killed by pro-government militia or security forces, a charge denied by the military. <