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Latest Update: Tuesday14/4/2009April, 2009, 12:12 AM Doha Time
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Norway is stripped of peace role

Three Tamil men (L), who said they have not eaten for two days, participate in a hunger strike in front of the Admiralty House, the residence of Australia‘s Governor General, in Sydney, yesterday.  Hundreds of protesters rallied with the hunger strikers calling for the Australian government to pressure Sri Lanka to enter a permanent ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels

Sri Lanka yesterday stripped  Norway of its role as broker of the island’s moribund peace process,  bringing an end to a decade-long effort to halt one of Asia’s  longest-running civil wars.

The decision comes as the Sri Lankan government says it is on  the verge of totally crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been  cornered by the army in a narrow strip of jungle along the northeast  coast.
It also came as the Sri Lankan army began a unilateral two-day  ceasefire it says will allow trapped civilians to escape the  conflict zone -- most likely before an all-out final push is  launched.
“The government of Sri Lanka perceives that there is no room for  Norway to act as (peace) facilitator,” a Colombo government official  who did not want to be named said.
A formal letter was handed over to Norway’s ambassador to  Colombo, Tore Hattrem, yesterday, the official added.
The dismissal of Oslo as peace broker followed an attack against  Sri Lanka’s embassy in Norway by Tamil demonstrators. Colombo said  repeated appeals to the local authorities to protect the diplomatic  compound had been ignored.
Sri Lanka has also recently taken exception to Norway arranging  a telephone conversation between a senior LTTE leader and a UN envoy  to discuss the island’s humanitarian crisis.
Norway’s removal cuts off an important conduit for  communications with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) --  either with Colombo, the United Nations or other countries promoting  the peace process.
Sri Lanka had formally invited the Scandinavian nation to act as  peace broker in January 2000, and Oslo managed to secure a ceasefire  which came into force in February 2002.
Norway’s peace role was backed by the United States, the  European Union, Japan and Sri Lanka’s immediate neighbour, India.
The Sri Lankan government, however, officially pulled out of the  truce in January last year, accusing the Tamil Tigers of frequent  ceasefire violations and saying they had been using the break in  fighting to re-arm. AFP


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