Sri Lanka president says won’t allow Tigers to hold Tamil people hostage

September 25, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said he would not allow the Tamil Tigers to hold the Tamil people hostage, as the decades-long conflict with the rebels escalates, his office said Thursday.

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In an address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Rajapakse accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of denying Tamil people living in the north their democratic rights to dissent and free speech.

The president asked the LTTE, who have been fighting for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the island’s north and east since 1972, to disarm and resume talks with the government.

“Our government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group (LTTE) when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability, and return to the democratic fold.”

The LTTE did not immediately comment on Rajapakse’s remarks.

Having wrestled the east from the LTTE in July 2007, Rajapakse’s government pulled out of a ceasefire with the rebels in January, and is currently trying to dismantle t