- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

Sri Lanka’s appeal

The foreign minister of Sri Lanka yesterday urged the United States to increase efforts to shut down front groups financing Tamil Tiger rebels, which are included on terrorist blacklists in Washington, Europe and India.

Rohitha Bogollagama met with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and is due to hold talks today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to urge stronger action against groups that support the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The foreign minister also noted that think tanks in London and Singapore have linked the Tigers to al Qaeda. He said the Tigers, who pioneered the gruesome tactic of suicide bombings in the 1980s, may have supplied technology to the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors.

The foreign minister said his government is grateful for the actions the United States has taken since 1997, when Washington listed the Tamil Tigers as terrorists, but warned that new Tamil support groups appear after others are shut down. Maryland and New Jersey are currently thought to be home to some rebel front groups, he said.

“We have to explain ourselves with clarity to the world at large,” Mr. Bogollagama said at a luncheon with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “We want the international community to have a greater understanding of the situation we face in Sri Lanka.”

He delivered a similar message earlier this week in a meeting in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Fighting between rebel and government forces has continued despite a cease-fire signed in 2004. Some of the heaviest clashes occurred earlier this week when government forces bombed a rebel base in a Tiger stronghold in the eastern part of the south Asian island nation.

Mr. Bogollagama said international monitors have cited the rebels with 7,000 violations of the cease-fire and the government with more than 300.

He also noted that 54 percent of the ethnic Tamil population lives outside the regions controlled by the Tigers.

Not negotiable

Israel’s foreign minister declared that her country will never negotiate its right to exist with Palestinian groups that want to destroy the Jewish state, and called on Arab and Muslim nations to open diplomatic relations with Israel to promote peace in the Middle East.

“I believe in dialogue, but there are some things that are not up for negotiations,” Tzipi Livni, who also serves as deputy prime minister, told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington this week.

“We cannot and will not negotiate our right to exist. No one has the right to do so in our name.”

Mrs. Livni listed the familiar threats posed against Israel but also said she saw hopeful signs among “moderate and pragmatic” Arab leaders.

“The Middle East is changing. Yes, there are threats. We can see the extremists headed by Iran with its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority,” she said.

“But there are new opportunities. We can see the old divisions of the Middle East being replaced. Israelis, moderate Palestinian and pragmatic Arab and Muslim leaders are moving into the same camp, sharing the same interests for a peaceful and stable Middle East.”

In an Associated Press interview, she called the Arab League decision to reopen a peace plan promoted by Saudi King Abdullah a “positive” development because it proposes Arab recognition of Israel. However, she said the plan has some “very problematic” elements such as a proposal for Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

At the AIPAC conference, Mrs. Livni called the U.S.-Israeli relationship one of “utmost importance.”

“We are in the midst of a struggle for the future of the free world,” she said. “The outcome of this struggle will shape this century and the kind of world we — Americans and Israelis — pass on to our children.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison washingtontimes.com.

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