Britain freezes Sri Lanka aid, seeks Tiger talks

Computer generated image of the new factory complex

May 3, 2007 (AFP) – Britain has frozen aid to Sri Lanka in a bid to pressure the government to improve its human rights record, officials said Thursday. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s special peace envoy, Paul Murphy, is also planning a visit to Sri Lanka, a former British colony, in bid to help salvage the moribund peace process, diplomatic sources said.

Murphy last visited in November and held talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse as well as the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi.

However, a visit by a group of British diplomats to Kilinochchi Thursday for fresh talks with the Tigers was cancelled after the Sri Lankan government told them to put off the visit, official sources said.

The British High Commission spokesman declined to give details, but said the planned meeting with the Tigers was “connected to the peace process.”

Sri Lankan officials said Colombo asked the envoys to delay the visit due to security considerations. Last month, the government made a similar request to peace broker Norway’s top envoy Hans Brattskar.

London’s concern over the escalating violenc