Sri Lanka shows military might as Tigers protest anniversary

Feb 4 (AFP) – Sri Lanka put on a bristling display of its military might to mark freedom day Saturday as Tamil rebels forced a work stoppage ahead of key talks to save a tenuous truce in the strife-torn island. Shops were closed and public transport was off the streets in the restive northeastern port district of Trincomalee after the one-day strike called by a Tamil Tiger front organisation, police said.

President Mahinda Rajapakse called for peace and unity as he took the independence day salute from a dias at Colombo’s seafront Galle Face promenade where troops displayed tanks, ground attack aircraft and gunboats.

He urged all parties to shed their differences and work for peace in a country where more than 60,000 people have died in ethnic violence since 1972.

“Let us unite and place country before self,” the president said in an address to the nation while announcing his government would “in a few days” open talks with Tamil Tiger rebels.

“In a few days we will hold talks with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam),” he said. “Our peace process will be totally transparent … but no one can also threaten or scare us into doing anything.”

Amid the national day events, auth

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