Aid agency calls Tamil Tigers to stay in peace talks

 CAFOD is urging the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) to remain in the peace process in Sri Lanka after the British government proposed banning them yesterday. If the organisation is declared illegal, they will not be able to have members in Britain or raise money here. LTTE had threatened to abandon their ceasefire and withdraw from the Norwegian-brokered negotiations if the UK declared them terrorists. CAFOD fears the ban will give the upper hand to extremists in LTTE and convince the rebels that international mediation has failed. The general secretary of the Sri Lankan Bishops' Conference, Bishop Malcolm Ranjith said: "We sincerely hope that the decision of the British government would in no way lead to a break in the prospects of a negotiated settlement to the long, drawn-out crisis. "Accordingly, we call on Colombo and the LTTE to immediately commence peace talks with a mutually-agreed cease-fire." CAFOD's Sri Lanka Programme Officer Steve Alston said: "The banning of the LTTE should only be seen in the context of the British government having to apply UK domestic legislation. Our own recent history in the UK suggests that this type of banning is counterproductive. The British government showed in Northern Ireland that by bringing terrorist groups into negotiations peace can be achieved." LTTE are fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north of the country. The war has killed more than 60,000 people so far and displaced more than a million. Alston said: "My recent visit to the north indicated a yearning by the people for a just and lasting peace to enable them to get on with re-building their shattered lives. CAFOD strongly believes that the current peace process facilitated by Norway and supported by the United Kingdom and India offers the best opportunity for securing a just and lasting peace."

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