EU bans LTTE as terrorists - Times
[TamilNet, Saturday, 20 May 2006, 06:53 GMT]
The European Union has agreed to blacklist the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist group, despite warnings that this could lead to full-blown civil war in Sri Lanka, the Times newspaper reported Saturday. Quoting EU diplomats, the London daily said Britain and other countries persuaded Sweden, Denmark and Finland to overcome their reservations and that pressure from the United States was also a factor.
“The 25 member states unanimously agreed to the ban on Thursday night after Britain and other countries persuaded Sweden, Denmark and Finland to overcome their reservations. The Scandinavian countries were showing solidarity with Norway, which has acted as peace broker in Sri Lanka and strongly believes that proscribing the Tamil Tigers as terrorists will be counter-productive,” the Times reported.
“There is now an agreement. The last reservations have been lifted,” one EU diplomat told the paper.
The agreement in principle, which was cloaked in secrecy until now, will be formally adopted by EU ministers on May 29.
The Times felt the move is likely to bring about the restriction of diplomatic contacts with EU governments, a bar on fundraising by the group, a freeze on its assets and the prevention of Tamil Tiger members from travelling to the EU.
The Europe-wide ban was agreed two days after a request by the US. “Washington’s request was a determining factor,” a diplomat said.
The Times said that Washington and EU member states “hope that proscribing the LTTE will help to bring it to the negotiating table.”
However, Ulf Henricsson, the retired Swedish MajorGeneral leading the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, warned that it could backfire.
“I’m not sure the EU ban is coming at the right time,” he told the Times.
“Worst-case scenario might be that the LTTE thinks it is abandoned by everyone and there is no alternative to a full-scale guerrilla war. They target Colombo — investors leave, tourists leave, rich people leave.”
Senior LTTE officials have, for several months, been repeatedly warning international diplomats that unqualified international support has been encouraging hardline and ruthless policies in Colombo, including a decision to punish Tamil civilians for attacks on security forces by suspected Tamil Tigers.
The LTTE’s top negotiator, responding to reports of the EU ban, reiterated Thursday that further proscriptions of the LTTE would encourage an escalation of violence and inexorably lead to war.
Anton Balasingham told TamilNet Thursday: “Emboldened by international support, and especially by further proscriptions of the LTTE, the Sinhala hardline elements will undoubtedly take steps further to escalate the violence and precipitate a war in which they hope to destroy the LTTE. If this happens, the LTTE will be compelled to resist.”
As the Times hit British newsstands, Sri Lanka’s Army opened tank and artillery fire on LTTE defence lines in southern Jaffna. The LTTE replied with mortars.