|Thursday, 23 October 2003|
Lanka ready to meet any military challenge - Tyronne
NEW DELHI, Wednesday (AFP) The Colombo government is ready to meet any military challenge from the LTTE should the peace process collapse, Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando has said.
"The Tigers are doing it. They have increased their cadre enormously," Fernando said in an interview with the Hindu newspaper published yesterday.
"I am not going to say the process is going to break down, but I don't think the people will forgive us if we were not ready. Equally, we have been ready for a while and we have to be in a better state of preparedness."
The remarks by Fernando, who accompanied Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on a visit to New Delhi earlier this week, come as the Tigers said they are ready to hand over a plan for their main demand of an interim administration for the island's northeast on October 31.
The LTTE pulled out of Norwegian-brokered peace talks after the sixth round in March.
They made the setting up of an interim administration in the island's northeast a pre-condition to resuming negotiations. Fernando said he remained buoyant the peace process would hold.
"I am extremely optimistic that the peace talks will succeed but equally the LTTE must know that if they do not succeed, everybody will lose, including them," he said. The LTTE, he added, must stick to the path of finding a federal solution within a united Sri Lanka or face international wrath. If the LTTE makes demands with the intention of dividing the country, it could plunge the country back into a war, he said.
"This time, in the context of 9/11, the international community will come down heavily on them," the visiting Foreign Minister said.
"They must also be reasonable. We are ready to go halfway. They must also be ready to come halfway." The Tigers have been travelling in Europe, meeting with their legal team and constitutional experts, to prepare a set of counter proposals to Colombo's July 17 offer of a Tiger-dominated interim administration for embattled areas.
Diplomatic sources said the LTTE document would be an important landmark in attempts to politically end the island's drawn-out ethnic bloodshed as it will be the first time Tigers would put down their position in writing.
Produced by Lake House