Norwegian named as new head of Sri Lanka ceasefire monitors

Aug 21, 2006 (AFP) – A former Norwegian army chief was named Monday as the new head monitor of Sri Lanka’s crumbling ceasefire after Tamil Tiger rebels demanded European Union members quit the team. Major General Lars Solvberg will take charge of the 30-strong group of Icelandic and Norwegian monitors, said Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) spokesman Thorfinnur Omarsson.

“He is due to come for a visit before September 1,” he said.

Monitors from EU members Sweden, including current monitoring team head Brigadier General Ulf Henricsson, Denmark and Finland will quit by the end of the month.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had called on them to pull out after the EU branded the rebels a terrorist organisation in May.

Solvberg will take over a team designed to have 57 members, but slashed by nearly half despite Iceland and Norway agreeing to bolster their numbers from next month.

Some of its offices will be closed.

The SLMM was created four years ago with its headquarters in Colombo to monitor the ceasefire agreed in February 2002 between the rebels and the government.

A surge in fighting since December has left more than 1,500 dead.

Human Rights Watch said