Ambassadors from EU leave for talks at Tamil Tiger stronghold

Ambassadors from the European Union, Japan and Norway left for a Tamil Tiger stronghold on Monday to urge the guerrillas to peacefully settle Sri Lanka's more than two-decade-old conflict.

Tom Knappskog, the spokesman for the Norwegian Embassy, said the ambassadors departed for Kilinochchi, 275 kilometers (170 miles) north of Colombo, where they will meet the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The envoys expressed concern Sunday about the commitment of both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE to April 19-21 peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, after an earlier round in February. The two sides agreed at those talks to scale down escalating violence that threatened to scuttle a three-year-old, Norwegian-backed cease-fire.

Despite the pledges made in February, violence has escalated.

The European Union, Japan, and Norway are Sri Lanka's top financial donors and backers of the peace process with Tiger rebels.

The envoys will "underline the need for the LTTE to live up to its commitments made at the February Geneva meeting, and for a strong and positive LTTE engagement to make the upcoming talks a success," a statement said Sunday.

On Monday, the Sri Lankan military reported suspected rebels wounded two civilians with gunfire on Saturday near the eastern town of Valaichenai, the Media Unit of the Defense Ministry said.

Soldiers on patrol also found 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of gelignite, a type of explosive used mostly in the construction and mining industries, in the northeastern port town of Trincomalee on Saturday.

The Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the country's Sinhalese majority. The conflict has cost an estimated 65,000 lives, reports the AP.

I.L.