Agencies fear Tamil Tiger ban will derail Sri Lanka peace talks

 Church agencies are deploring an impending decision by the government to ban Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) in the UK. Within the next few days, Home Secretary Jack Straw is expected to announce that is illegal to fund the LTTE or belong to the organization in this country - under the British Terrorism Act 2000. A spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: "This sounds like a cynical way of trying to cut down the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the UK and sends a very bad signal to the Sri Lankan government that the LTTE are all terrorists." Steve Alston from CAFOD, which is working closely with partners in Sri Lanka, said the organization had asked for a meeting with Charles Clark, minister responsible for making recommendations to Jack Straw. He said they would be asking the government to delay the announcement while crucial peace talks are underway. Bishop Malcolm Ranjith, general secretary of the Sri Lankan Bishops' Conference said: "This move comes at a critical time and could destabilize delicate peace negotiations." He said: "Whatever decision the British government may take, should not distract us from pursuing the real issues at stake, namely the search for a just and sustainable peace through processes that are both non-violent and democratic. "The LTTE unilateral ceasefire has shed a ray of hope that a negotiated settlement is not entirely beyond our reach. The war only heaps more economic burdens on and extracts greater sacrifices from our people who are engaged in a long and continuous struggle to live decent human lives." CAFOD partners in Sri Lanka were intensifying their efforts to bring about peace this weekend. On Sunday the bishops in Sri Lanka planned to hold an inter-faith peace rally in Kandy as part of a wider national peace programme. Organizers said the objective of the campaign was to press the government in Colombo to cease military action against the Tamils and negotiate a settlement in a climate of goodwill. The Tamil Tigers are an armed group from the north and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, homeland of the Tamil speakers. A spokesman for Christian Aid said: "All the NGOs working in the area recognize that besides being a paramilitary organization the Tamil Tigers are the only major political representative of their people. It is essential to speak with them. Branding them all as terrorists would be very harmful."

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