Sri Lanka rejects Norway deal with Tigers, battle for water resumes

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka, Aug 6, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Sunday rejected peace broker Norway’s deal with Tamil Tiger rebels to lift a water blockade at the root of the latest bloodshed that has claimed at least 425 lives by official count. Troops began shelling suspected Tiger positions around Maavilaru in this north-eastern port district where the guerrillas blocked a sluice gate depriving water to some 15,000 farmer families down stream.

In the capital Colombo, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said they were not involved in Norway’s talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that led to the rebels announcing they will open the sluice gates.

“Water should not be a negotiating tool,” Rambukwella told AFP. “We don’t want terrorists to come and open the water way. They must simply allow irrigation engineers to do it, otherwise we will open it anyway.”

He said Norway’s peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer had not consulted Colombo in cutting a deal with the Tigers.

“Hanssen-Bauer’s discussions should have included us,” said Rambukwella who is also the Policy Planning minister.

The LTTE’s political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan told Hanssen-Bauer that they will lift the water blockade, but warned of a return to