Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Fighting among rebels in Sri Lanka may affect presidential elections

Factional fighting among rebels in Sri Lanka's volatile east could disturb this month's presidential election and affect the result of the closely contested poll, an election monitoring group warned Wednesday.

"If there are any disturbances or acts of intimidation there, it will definitely affect the result," said Kingsly Rodrigo, chairman of People's Action for Free and Fair Elections, an independent monitoring group that has overseen 11 of the country's elections.

"This is an election where every vote counts," he said.

Thirteen candidates are contesting the Nov. 17 poll, but Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe are widely expected to dominate the race.

While there have been significantly fewer incidents of election-related violence this year than in previous polls, Rodrigo said the eastern part of the country was a particular concern.

"This time there is a shift to the east ... different factions (of the rebels) are operating and the other group is armed," Rodrigo told reporters.

He did not refer to any group by name, but Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam insurgents have been battling with a breakaway group since March last year, mainly in the country's east.

Scores of people have been killed in the internecine fighting, which has involved gunfire and grenades.

Rodrigo said a grenade explosion could scare people into staying at home on election day.

Local vigilante groups headed by religious leaders have been set up to try to avert violence in the area, he said.

The election monitoring group will deploy about 22,000 election observers throughout the island, including 100 foreign monitors, reports the AP. I.L.