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Renegade commander has fighters, admits LTTE

March 12, 2004 16:34 IST

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on Friday admitted that the renegade regional commander V Muralitharan had fighters under his command.

The outfit warned Muralitharan that he was pushing himself to a 'dangerous corner' by refusing to step down. But it vowed to resolve the issue without bloodbath.

Muralitharan is the commander for Batticaloa and Ampara districts.

Earlier, the LTTE's main leadership based in the island's northern Wanni region maintained that Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, was acting alone and had no support among Tiger guerrillas.

"Cadres under Karuna's command are distancing and deserting him gradually," LTTE's northern-based political wing leader S P Thamilselvan was quoted as saying in the  pro-rebel web site. "Karuna is increasingly facing danger from among his own group of cadres."

Thamilselvan, however, said they were taking steps to bring the districts of Batticaloa and Ampara back into their control 'without any bloodshed or danger to our cadres'.

"Karuna not only has been relieved of his responsibilities, he has been removed from the movement," Thamilselvan said. "By rejecting to abide by the movement's ruling he is pushing himself into a dangerous corner."

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He said Norway as peace broker has decided not to have any contact with Karuna's faction, which called for a separate ceasefire accord with the Sri Lankan government.

The Colombo government too has rejected a call by Karuna to enter into a new truce to replace the one Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe entered into with Tiger chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

Norwegian envoy Erik Solheim told reporters in the northern town of Kilinochchi that he will not get involved in the "internal matter" of the LTTE.

Solheim, a top official involved in Norway's efforts to resolve the ethnic conflict, said he had no plans to meet with Karuna who had been a member of the LTTE's peace negotiating team.

"We will not interfere in an internal matter of the LTTE," Solheim said, when asked if he would see Karuna who reportedly commands an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 guerrillas in two eastern districts.

The Norwegians suspended their brokering role in November after President Chandrika Kumaratunga accused Wickremesinghe of conceding too much in talks with the Tigers.

Kumaratunga assumed the portfolios of defence and interior and Norway said they will 'return home and wait' until there was 'clarity as to who was really in charge in Colombo'.

The rivalry between the president and the prime minister has led to snap polls to be held April 2, further delaying efforts to resolve a conflict that has claimed over 60,000 lives since 1972.

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