Sri Lanka truce monitors to hold crisis talks

OSLO, June 29, 2006 (AFP) – Five Nordic nations held talks here Thursday to try to salvage Sri Lanka’s faltering ceasefire, as the slaying of a top army general underscored the threat of full-scale war. Peace broker Norway met with the four other members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Oslo for five hours to discuss the role of foreign truce observers on the South Asian island, but a decision was not expected for several weeks, officials said.

The meeting was called after the Tamil Tiger rebels demanded that monitors from European Union nations Denmark, Finland and Sweden quit the mission, saying they could no longer be neutral after the EU last month placed the Tigers on its list of terrorist organisations.

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

There were no representatives from Sri Lanka present at Thursday’s talks.

Norway’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, told AFP after the meeting that the Tigers had given the SLMM “some extra time” before Finland, Sweden and Denmark have to withdraw.

He provided no specific timeframe.