V.S. Sambandan

Colombo, LTTE urged to resume talks

COLOMBO: As Sri Lanka entered 2006 with war clouds looming large, peace activists cutting across ethnic divisions on Saturday condemned "the violations of the ceasefire agreement" and called upon the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to "resume negotiations without further delay."

The activists urged the "military of both sides" to discuss "ways and means of de-escalating violence," through the assistance of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and demanded the immediate creation of a mechanism "to ensure relief and rehabilitation" to the north and east, parts of which are under LTTE control.

The activists from the National Anti-War Front took out a candlelight vigil as a restive nation braced itself for uncertainty on the security front. Sources in the security forces say they expect a stepped-up offensive, particularly in northern part. "The forces have been kept on alert, and are ready for any eventuality," they said.

At least 70 persons were killed in the spurt in violence in the north and east during December. These include 45 security forces personnel and 25 civilians.

Search operation

In a major cordon-and-search operation, police and army personnel on Saturday rounded up over 900 persons in Colombo. The police maintained that it was an attempt to "round up criminals evading arrest." Wellawatte, a Tamil-majority locality, was the focus of the operation, and most of those detained were released by evening, police sources said.

The operation started at 4.00 a.m. and went on for a few hours.

"There are several persons on whom arrest warrants have been issued. This is an operation to round up fugitives and all persons - Tamils and Sinhalese - were included," a senior police official said.

Clergy leaders' plea

Christian clergy leaders on Friday urged the LTTE to "resume peace talks immediately" and to take measures "to restore normality in the troubled north," a report in the Daily Mirror said.

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