Tiger leader faces deadline for war or peace in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Nov 26 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s elusive Tamil Tiger supremo marks his 52nd birthday Sunday with a self-imposed deadline to decide the course of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflict. The TNA is the third largest group in the 225-member assembly and their votes would be crucial for any political deal to end separatist violence, which has already claimed more than 60,000 lives since the birth of the Tigers. Velupillai Prabhakaran has no official birthday celebrations but his annual speech on Monday will be keenly watched by Sri Lankan leaders as well as those in foreign capitals struggling to broker peace.

“There are no official functions or celebrations,” said Tiger military spokesman Rasiah Illanthiriyan.

“But many people usually have religious observances or share sweets to mark the occasion.”

Born on November 26, 1954 in the island’s arid north, Prabhakaran, a school drop-out, has built what is regarded the world’s deadliest guerrilla outfit. He commands a squad of suicide bombers who have even inspired Al-Qaeda.

Prabhakaran’s birthday coincides with the “Heroes Week” of his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which honors the 18,500-plus men and women who