Friday, May 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Lanka ready for talks with LTTE
Rebels sneak into Jaffna suburbs

COLOMBO, May 18 (PTI) — The Sri Lanka Government admitted tonight that small groups of the LTTE rebels sneaked into some suburbs of Jaffna town and asserted Palaly, which housed the army’s only airbase in the northern peninsula, was very much in operation with military planes transporting essential supplies and new weapons systems.

Meanwhile, a report from New Delhi said Sri Lanka was willing to open talks with the LTTE if the latter was willing to do so.

"....We are prepared to start talks even tomorrow morning if the LTTE is willing to do so. We have said that and we do not go back on the stand at all," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Laxman Kadirgamar told "Aaj Tak".

Without referring to reports of the LTTE artillery attacks on Palaly military complex, a government press note said the army continued to use the airbase for ferrying food, medicine and new weapons systems acquired to repulse rebel attacks to recapture the peninsula.

It said while troops managed to repulse many concerted attacks by the rebels to break into the town, a small group of rebels managed to infiltrate into populated areas of Valikaman east, near the town.

“Troops launched a search operation in order to locate and destroy the infiltrators, during the early hours of today. This operation is in progress”, it said adding that four soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in the latest battles.

Though the statement did not specify the weapons, army sources here said the newly-procured items included, multi-barrel rocket launchers which the LTTE was using against Lankan troops.

It said some of the newly-acquired weapon systems would be operational “very shortly”.

The government's assertion that Palaly was being extensively used comes amid reports for the second consecutive day of artillery bombardment by the LTTE on the military garrison at Palaly.

This was the first time that the LTTE could direct its artillery to Palaly. It was still not known what precautions were being taken by the army to defend Palaly from further attacks.

The Sri Lankan Government has debunked the LTTE claim that fierce onslaught by its cadres forced the government troops to abandon a military complex at Kaithadi in Ariyali sector, saying that the army has no major base in the area and that only defence lines have been readjusted .

Military sources here said there was no major military base at Kaithadi as claimed by the LTTE yesterday.

In the face of this denial comes another claim by the rebels that they fired six artillery shells today at Palay air base.

The latest claim follows the one on yesterday when the Tigers said that they fired three shells at the base. Military sources had denied the reports of the yesterday’s attack. They said a few shells fired by Tamil rebels fell south west of the airfield, about 4 km away .

The government troops continued to engage rebels at Colobuthurai, that is straddled between Jaffna and Chavakachcheri, a situation report released by the government today said. Seven security forces personnel have been wounded during the past 24 hours of fighting.

Fighting is on in Thanankilappu area and backed by artillery and air force security forces have checked the advance to the rebels towards Jaffna, the report said.

Reports reaching London from the fighting zone said the rebels carried out the long-range attacks on the Palaly air base either with an 81 mm mortar bomb or a 122 mm artillery gun.

Details of damage or casualties were not immediately known but the reports said six shells landed in the Palaly military complex and around Vasavilan area where army hospital is located.

The LTTE said in a statement released in London that the rebels Tigers today overran a government military complex in northern Jaffna peninsula after 12 hours of ferocious combat in which more than 100 troops were killed and hundreds wounded.

With six more persons succumbing

to injuries, the death toll in the last night’s powerful bomb blast triggered by the suspected LTTE rebels near a Buddhist temple in eastern Batticaloa town gone up to 29 today.


Canadian diplomats call on Vaiko

NEW DELHI, May 18 (UNI) — High-ranking Canadian diplomats here and in Islamabad today met MDMK chief Vaiko for about 75 minutes during which entire gamut of crisis situation prevailing in Sri Lanka was discussed.

Mr Vaiko, who has been relentlessly championing the cause of not only the Tamils fighting for Eelam in the north and eastern province of Sri Lanka but also the entire Tamil race in the Island Nation, drew the attention of the diplomats to the “plight and persecution” of Tamils across the Palk Strait.

Mr James Carrick, who is replacing Mr Chris Cotter as the First Secretary (Political) in the Canadian High Commission here, and Mr Glyn R. Perry, Counsellor Canadian High Commission in Islamabad, were the diplomats who met Mr Vaiko.

In Chennai, Dr S. Ramdaoss, founder of the Pattali Makkal Kathi (PMK) a constituent of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre, today urged the Union Government to turn down any request for military assistance from Sri Lanka.

He said the visit of Sri Lankan armed forces Chief of Staff Gen Rohana De Silva to India yesterday when a fierce battle was going on in Sri Lanka was intriguing.

The purpose of his visit required an explanation. If it was for seeking Indian military assistance, it should be rejected, he said adding that India should stick to its stated policy of non-military intervention in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Chief of Defence Staff Gen Rohan De Silva Daluvatte arrived in Bangalore on a three-day visit yesterday.

Official sources confirmed that Gen Rohan De Silva had arrived in the city on a “private visit” and was staying in one of the defence establishment in the city. However, his whereabouts were being kept a secret for “security reasons”.

It was not immediately known as to whether he held discussions with any of the chiefs of defence establishments in the city.

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