Sri Lanka raise diplomatic offensive after sea battle

Sri Lanka’s navy and Tamil Tigers fought a sea battle off the island’s northwest coast Thursday with three sailors feared killed and seven rebels captured, the navy said. Sri Lanka’s navy and Tamil Tigers fought a sea battle off the island’s northwest coast Thursday with three sailors feared killed and seven rebels captured, the navy said. The sea fight marked a worsening of clashes between rebels and government forces amid diplomatic moves to arrange direct talks between the parties to stop the country sliding back into war.

Government spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva said they lodged a complaint with the Scandinavian truce monitoring mission and condemned the attack on sailors as a “gross violation” of a ceasefire in place since February 2002.

“We are asking the international community to take note of this gross violation of the ceasefire and apply pressure on the Tigers to halt this cycle of violence,” de Silva told reporters here.

Tiger rebels fired automatic rifles at two naval patrol boats off the town of Mannar, sparking an exchange of gunfire, navy spokesman Jayantha Perera said.

“They have taken away three of our sailors and we presume the