- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The national airline will begin direct flights from both Tokyo and London to the Maldives in response to concerns about security at Colombo's international airport.
The move follows an attack on the airport six weeks ago by Tamil Tiger rebels.
SriLankan Airlines, which is partly owned and fully managed by Emirates of Dubai, said it would introduce two nonstop flights a week between Tokyo and Male, the capital of the Maldives, in September.
The airline said it will begin similar direct flights between the Maldives and London.
Tamil Tiger guerrillas attacked the island's only international airport on July 24, destroying four SriLankan aircraft and damaging two more.
Fourteen rebels and seven security personnel were killed. No civilians were hurt, but the ordeal of tourists caught in the cross fire made headlines around the world.
In a bomb attack at Colombo airport in May 1986, 16 passengers aboard a SriLankan aircraft were killed. Two of the victims were Japanese honeymooners on their way to Maldives.
SriLankan Airlines said it had decided to introduce direct flights from Tokyo because of the growing number of Japanese tourists opting for holidays in the Maldives instead of Sri Lanka.
Japan's Foreign Ministry has advised its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka.
"Japanese tourists seeking a vacation in the Indian Ocean region and currently unable to travel to Sri Lanka are seeking destinations like Male to holiday," SriLankan's CEO Peter Hill said.
"SriLankan Airlines is therefore reacting to market demand in introducing nonstop flights between Tokyo and Male," he said.
[Meanwhile, Reuters news agency quoted the U.S. ambassador in Colombo, Ashley Wills, as saying a State Department travel warning to U.S. citizens against going to Sri Lanka will be reviewed within two to three weeks.
[Mr. Wills said recent political turmoil and a Tamil rebel attack at Colombo's international airport in July were the reason for the advisory.
["The safety of our citizens is my main concern, and Sri Lanka at this point does worry me. In two to three weeks time, we will look at the travel warning," he said in response to questions at a public seminar.
[The United States, Japan, Britain, Germany and several other countries asked their citizens to defer nonessential travel after the July 24 attack by rebels at the airport.
[Sri Lankan tourism officials were quoted by Reuters as saying tourist arrivals could drop by 50 percent for the rest of the year.]

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