Thursday, November 10, 2005

Top Sri Lankan peace broker resigns ahead of poll

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan government's top peace broker, a candidate to become the next U.N. secretary-general, resigned on Wednesday, a week before a presidential election.

Jayantha Dhanapala, head of the government's Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process, will step down at the end of November, the secretariat's deputy secretary general, John Gooneratne, told Reuters.

"He was appointed by the government and there's an election coming, and he feels whoever comes in should have their own choice," Gooneratne added.

Outgoing President Chandrika Kumaratunga had accepted the resignation.

"He has other plans that he needs to work on," Gooneratne said, referring to Dhanapala's publicly announced bid to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Dhanapala's resignation comes just days ahead of the November 17 presidential vote, which pivots on how to jumpstart Sri Lanka's bid to convert a 2002 truce with the Tamil Tigers into a definitive end to a two-decade civil war that killed more than 64,000 people.

However, peace talks have been suspended since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) pulled out of them in 2003, and Dhanapala's departure was not expected to have any immediate impact.

Kumaratunga is in the twilight of her second term and cannot run again, leaving Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and main opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to face off for the presidency in a race seen too close to call.


However, the peace process that Dhanapala helped marshal is at its lowest ebb since the truce was brokered, strained by a rash of attacks that the rebels and military blame on each other and which culminated in the August assassination of the foreign minister.

The Tigers, who deny involvement in the killing, are refusing to resume peace talks because they are not ready for a long-term deal, analysts say.

The Tigers, who have de facto rule over the 15 percent of Sri Lanka they control, want to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils, who they say are discriminated against by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese and are striving for autonomy.

Truce monitors say a return to a full-blown war is unlikely, but analysts expect the peace impasse to continue whoever wins the election.

Dhanapala angered the Tigers in August when he said the government would not subdue a splinter rebel faction which is mounting attacks against the mainstream guerrillas in the east.

The Tigers accuse the military of helping the Karuna faction, a charge the military denies, and insist the government abide by the cease-fire and disarm paramilitaries.

"They do not qualify as a paramilitary group because they were not there prior to the cease-fire agreement ... This is an internal problem of the LTTE," Dhanapala said at the time.


Surrendered cadres expose SLA complicity with Karuna group

Two underage youths, Suresh Kandasamy (16) and Babu Selvam (15), and another foreign returnee Shanmugam Sarwarajah (21), recruited with promise of financial incentives by paramilitary Karuna Group surrendered to the Liberation Tigers and talked to media Monday evening at Solaiyaham Conference Centre in the LTTE controlled area of the Batticaloa district. The cadres said they were under continuous monitoring by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and decided to surrender when they were sent on missions to attack LTTE posts.

Suresh and Selvam from the Tamil village of Karapola in the Polannaruwa district, were kidnapped by Karuna Group cadres in August of 2005. Suresh said, he was kept inside a bunker for six days by a key operative of the Karuna Group, Jim Kelly Thatha, at the Sri Lanka Army camp (SLA) located in Kakachiaveddai. Suresh was promised Rs 6000 a month to work for the group.

Suresh said he was given training on operating guns at the SLA camp and was engaged in missions against the Tigers. A few days ago, Suresh surrended to the LTTE when he was sent with a pistol to gundown a person at Mandoor bridge, he said.

Selvam kidnapped by the paramilitary cadres riding in a Dolphin van was taken to a paramilitary camp in Thivuchenai, Welikanda, located close to an SLA base. He said the paramilitary cadres were also involved in robberies in Oddamavadi area in Valaichenai. He was also given 6000 rupees as salary. Selvam said he knew of at least seven Tamil youths who were brought to the camp and were killed there.

Shanmugam Sarwarajah (21) from Kokkaddicholai said Karuna operative Markkan convinced him to return from Qatar and join their group. According to Sarwarajah, there were at least 65 persons in the paramilitary camp in Thivuchenai where he was given training. He was also recruited for payment.

Sarwarajah said that after a month of training he was taken to Chenaipuram SLA base in Welikanda in a Buffel RPC vehicle and introduced to Capt. Kumarasinghe, the head of the base. The paramilitary group received supplies, instructions and was under complete supervision of the SLA, he added.

The press conference arranged by the LTTE at Solaiayakam,15 kilometres southwest of Batticaloa town, began at 3:30 pm. and ended at 5:00 pm.


Iraqi insurgents raise toll with tech-fueled bombs By Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - U.S. and British troops are being killed in Iraq by increasingly sophisticated insurgent bombs, including a new type triggered when a vehicle crosses an infrared beam and is blasted by armor-piercing projectiles.

The technology, which emerged during guerrilla wars in Lebanon and Northern Ireland, has been used in recent roadside bombings that have killed dozens of Americans and at least eight British soldiers.

The alarming efficiency has led many British and a few U.S. officials to argue that rogue groups in Iran and perhaps Lebanon are giving expertise to Iraq's insurgents. But others caution against that idea, saying the technology is available to those who know where to look.

Either way, the Pentagon is scrambling to find countermeasures, says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq.

Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Iraq's insurgents are likely just tapping a pool of common bombmaking technology, none of which requires special expertise.

Elsewhere . . .

HUSSEIN'S DEFENSE: Lawyers for Saddam Hussein on Wednesday said they had ceased to work with the tribunal and considered the next court date to be canceled. Khalil Dulaimi, head of the defense team, said the defense considers the Nov. 28 trial date "null and void" after attacks on several of the attorneys unless there are security guarantees.

CHALABI IN D.C.: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi offered Wednesday to be questioned by the Senate on his role in prewar Iraq but refused to apologize for fueling allegations that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Accorded a warm reception by the Bush administration, Chalabi meets several Cabinet officers this week and next.

Iraqi_insurgents_rais.shtml - Published November 10, 2005)