Sri Lanka peace monitors want to double staff as war escalates

July 9, 2007 (AFP) – International peace monitors in Sri Lanka want to double their numbers as fighting between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels intensifies, the chief monitor said Monday. The Tiger rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority on the Sinhalese majority island. The Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), which is tasked with observing a now-tattered truce, aims to increase its strength from 30 to 60, retired Norwegian army general Lars Solvberg said.

A February 2002 ceasefire was aimed at ending an ethnic conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972. It halted bloodshed for nearly three years but has since unravelled.

“If we are to see an improvement in the security, we can expect to double our strength from the 30 we have now,” SLMM chief Solvberg told the Foreign Correspondents’ Association here.

About 5,000 people have died, according to government figures, since both sides stepped up military campaigns in December 2005.

“We now have a smaller mission with a higher workload … We still have a role to play, though it’s a very difficult one,” he said.
In May, the SLMM stopped issuing rulings on