Sri Lanka truce monitors hold crisis talks amid rising war fears

June 27, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lankan peace broker Norway goes into crisis talks Thursday to try to salvage the island’s faltering ceasefire, as the assassination of a top army general underscored the threat of renewed war. “It is a case where they want to score something and then say, ‘Let’s talk’,” said retired army brigadier general Vipul Boteju. Norway will hold discussions in Oslo with the four other members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) amid uncertainty over the role of foreign truce observers on the South Asian island.

The meeting was called abruptly after the Tamil Tigers last week demanded that monitors from European Union nations Finland, Sweden and Denmark quit the mission, saying they could no longer be neutral following an EU decision to outlaw the rebels.

The move would force 37 out of the 57 monitors now in Sri Lanka to quit, leaving only those from Norway and Iceland and effectively hamstringing the SLMM.

“The LTTE, which has called for the withdrawal of … monitors from EU countries which account for two-thirds of the SLMM, is clearly intent on crippling the work of the Monitoring Mission,” the government said Monday, referring to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.