Sunday, June 04, 2006

EU to ban renegade Sri Lanka rebel faction too-diplomat By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The European Union is poised to blacklist a group of breakaway rebels locked in a bitter feud with the island's Tamil Tigers, a senior diplomat said on Sunday, similar to a new terror ban against the mainstream group.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were banned by the 25-nation bloc last week amid a rash of violence that many fear could rekindle a two-decade civil war, accuse the military of helping a band of former comrades led by a commander called Karuna.

The feud is seen as the biggest obstacle to jumpstarting stalled peace talks, which the Tigers have pulled out of indefinitely, and averting a slide back to full-blown war.

"The EU member states have requested the investigation and preparation of a dossier with the intention of listing the former part of the LTTE now known as the Karuna group," the diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The EU ban on the mainstream group froze the LTTE's funds and assets in member states and prohibited the provision of financial services to them.

Nordic truce monitors say they suspect some parts of Sri Lanka's military are involved in extrajudicial killings of ethnic Tamils and at the very least are turning a blind eye to Karuna men operating from government-controlled territory.

The international community has called on the government to rein in Karuna's group as pledged at peace talks earlier this year, but officials say they cannot find anyone to disarm and that it is not their responsibility anyway.

The government denies any collusion with Karuna, who split from the Tigers in 2004 and is seeking to supplant the rebels' northern leadership.

More than 290 soldiers, police, civilians and rebels have been killed in a rash of attacks from suicide bombings to naval clashes since February in what the truce monitors and Tigers now call a "low-intensity war" between the state and the rebels.

Sri Lanka's main political parties agreed on Friday to work on a new power-sharing offer for the Tigers, while the rebels agreed to talks in Oslo on June 8-9 on how to ensure truce monitor safety.

But the foes are still poles apart over the Tigers' central demand that their de facto state in the island's north and east be recognised as a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils, and many anticipate a return to a war that killed more than 64,000 people before a 2002 truce.