LTTE declares unilateral ceasefire, Sri Lanka rejects it (Lead)

Colombo, April 26 (Inditop) The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), holding less than eight sq km of territory in the island’s north, Sunday announced a unilateral ceasefire in Sri Lanka, a pro-rebel website reported. But the Sri Lankan government rejected the truce.

“In the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and in response to the calls made by the UN, EU, the governments of the US, India and others, the LTTE has announced a unilateral ceasefire,” TamilNet reported.

“All of LTTE’s offensive military operations will cease with immediate effect,” said the press statement.

“We are in full agreement that the humanitarian crisis can only be overcome by declaration of an immediate ceasefire,” the statement said, calling upon the international community to pressurise the Sri Lankan government to reciprocate.

The Sri Lankan government rejected the ceasefire offer, insisting that the LTTE must lay down arms and surrender, Xinhua reported.

Expressing “extreme concern over civilian casualties”, a senior UN envoy Sunday had called for a pause in fighting in Sri Lanka and urged the Tamil Tigers to free civilians and lay down their weapons.

“The months of fighting during which the inhabitants of the conflict zone have been trapped have taken a terrible toll among the civilian population,” UN Humanitarian Affairs chief John Holmes said, stressing the need to get out the tens of thousands of civilians still trapped in the conflict zone without any harm.

“I call on the LTTE with all the urgency I can to let out the remaining civilian population and lay down their arms; and on the government to exercise maximum restraint including no use of heavy weapons,” a UN statement quoted Holmes as saying.

“We need a new humanitarian pause to get aid and aid workers into the combat zone. We must have access to all IDPs (Internally Displaced People) wherever they are, including in the conflict zone, and the screening process must also be made more transparent,” said Holmes.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland in the country’s northern and eastern provinces for the past quarter century.