Rebels should return to peace talks, Sri Lanka foreign minister says

Ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels should return to peace talks or be branded as terrorists by the international community, Sri Lanka's foreign minister said Thursday.

Mangala Samaraweera, after a meeting in Tokyo with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the Tamil Tigers are resorting to increasingly violent tactics and are once again targeting civilians. He said they should be "listed as a terrorist organization" unless they return to peace talks.

"Now the time has come for the international community to ... tell them enough is enough," he said.

Samaraweera's visit comes as continuing violence in Sri Lanka threatens to push the island nation back into civil war.

More than 180 people have been killed in violence since the beginning of April according to figures compiled by The Associated Press, including government forces, rebels and civilians, with each side blaming the other.

On Wednesday, two mines exploded in eastern Sri Lanka, killing two soldiers and a policeman. Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe blamed the Tamil Tiger rebels for both incidents.

Japan sent special envoy Yasushi Akashi to Colombo earlier this month in an attempt to mediate between the two sides, but the envoy failed to persuade the rebels to return to peace talks with the government. He said relations between them had plunged to their worst levels since they signed a cease-fire in 2002.

The ethnic Tamil rebels began fighting for a separate homeland in 1983, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

Some 65,000 people died in the conflict before Norway brokered the cease-fire in 2002.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils accusing majority Sinhalese of discrimination, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team