Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers say truce dead, battle for statehood alive

COLOMBO, Feb 23, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka and the rebel Tamil Tigers marked the fifth anniversary of their truce on Friday, hours after the guerrillas said the deal was all but dead and that they will press ahead for full statehood. The party of nationalist Buddhist monks argued that there was no need for the government to quit a truce that had already expired.

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The ceasefire brokered by Norway was meant to end a conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives on this island nation in the past 35 years, but after temporarily halting the bloodshed for two years, the deal began to come apart.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Thursday night announced they were relaunching their “freedom struggle” to “achieve statehood.”

The announcement came nearly three months after the guerrillas said they might be forced to consider independence.

The ceasefire, signed separately by the Tamil Tiger chieftain and Sri Lanka’s then premier, came into effect on February 23, 2002 and led to direct negotiations and optimism that decades of bloodshed would end.

The Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, during their talks in December 2002, agreed to work towards turning Sri Lanka into a federal stat