Sri Lanka offensive and peace efforts go hand in hand: FM

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military has rooted out Tamil Tiger rebels from the east of the country in an offensive that complements efforts to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict, the country’s foreign minister said Sunday. “With the exception of a few jungle hideouts, most of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka which was until recently terrorised by the LTTE has been rid of this menace,” Rohitha Bogollagama told the Shangri-La Dialogue of senior Asian defence and security officials and experts.

He was referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which has waged a 35-year campaign for independence that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

“We see no contradiction in dealing firmly with the scourge of terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE, even as the Government of Sri Lanka seeks to evolve a consensus for a negotiated political settlement to the armed conflict,” Bogollagama told the Singapore conference.

That is why the government sought in recent months to battle the Tigers, “to convince the group that it cannot expect to achieve a military victory,” he said.

Government troops and rebels have been locked in combat following the breakdown of a 2002 Norwegian-brokered truce.

Official sources in