Sri Lanka army chief vows to defeat Tiger rebels

Feb 10, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s army chief again vowed to defeat Tamil separatists but refused to set a deadline for the end of the decades-old conflict, saying the rebels remain a potent force, a report said Sunday. Army general Sarath Fonseka said in an interview with the Lakbima weekly newspaper that a military campaign to capture the rebel-held Wanni region in the north begun in March last year was moving according to plan.

He however refused to give a timeframe for defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have fought for more than three decades to establish an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the Sinhalese-majority island.

“They are an organised force with a lot of experience. They have thousands of fighters. I don’t conduct the war looking at deadlines and timeframes,” Fonseka said in the interview published Sunday.

“Can a war that has been going on for more than 25 years be completed by March? But, what I say is — give us a chance.”

At the beginning of the year, in an interview with the state-run Sunday Observer, Fonseka said the LTTE had 3,000 fighters and pledged that the military could defeat them by mid-2008.

But in the interview published Sunday, he i