Tamil rebels want Sri Lanka to fully implement it

A top Tamil Tiger leader said Thursday the rebel group is committed to a four-year-old cease-fire, and will press for its full implementation at the upcoming Geneva talks.

Seevaratnam Puleedevan, chief of the rebels' Peace Secretariat, implied that all-out war would not be ruled out if the Feb. 22-23 talks between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government in the Swiss capital failed.

"I do not want to predict anything," Puleedevan told The Associated Press. "But the future will depend on what steps the Sri Lankan government is going to take to see that the cease-fire agreement is implemented fully."

Meanwhile, rival rebels factions clashed in eastern Sri Lanka, killing one combatant and wounding two others, police said. The latest fighting took place in areas controlled by the mainstream rebel group in Batticaloa district, according to police.

The Tigers accuse the government of backing a breakaway faction and want the Colombo administration to disarm that group before proceeding further with the peace talks.

"Every day there are human rights violations of the Tamils by Sri Lankan military and groups backed by them," Puleedevan said, adding that 120 Tamil civilians have been killed and 55 missing since January.

The government denies backing the splinter group and in turn blames the rebels for many of the killings, including 81 soldiers killed since Dec. 4, when new violence flared up in the northeast.

The rebel movement split in 2004 when an eastern-based military commander, named Karuna, broke away with 6,000 fighters. The rebellion was suppressed by the mainstream rebels, but Karuna and several fighters managed to escape and are known to operate in eastern Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Tigers in 1983 launched a violent campaign to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in the northeast, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. The civil war killed 65,000 people before the cease-fire was signed, reports the AP.

I.L.