Sri Lanka agrees to expand depleted truce monitoring mission

Sept 12, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has agreed to expand the peace monitoring mission in the war-torn country to include observers from other countries after Tamil Tiger rebels expelled European Union member states, an official said Tuesday. Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the island’s main financial backers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday were expected to discuss expanding the depleted Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

“We are ready to work with anybody,” Rambukwella said. “We don’t care which country sends more as long as we can get the job done.”

The 25-nation European Union branded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a terrorist group in May, prompting the rebels to retaliate by demanding the ousting of EU members Sweden, Finland and Denmark from the SLMM.

The head of the SLMM, Ulf Henricsson, a Swedish national, quit at the start of the month and was replaced by former Norwegian army chief Lars Solvberg who is now running a 30-strong group, about half the previous SLMM strength.

Rambukwella said bringing in nationals from non-Nordic nations would need an amendment to the February 2002 truce arranged by peacebroker Norway and the government would agree to it.

The rebels have said they are agreeable