- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tigers still terrorists

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels might have apologized for firing a mortar on a helicopter carrying diplomats, but Washington still considers them terrorists, said U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake, who was slightly injured in the Feb. 27 attack.

Mr. Blake told Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times that the United States will continue to keep the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on its list of terrorist organizations and prosecute any U.S.-based support group until the rebels renounce violence and respect a cease-fire agreement they signed in 2002 but frequently violate.

“The United States designated the LTTE a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Nothing has happened to change our attitude,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.

“The United States has arrested LTTE agents and supporters for providing financial and material support to the Tigers. We have provided expert advice to track terrorist financing. …

“The United States will consider changing its attitude toward the LTTE when they renounce terrorism, cease suicide bombings, stop recruiting children and engage in serious talks toward a negotiated solution.”

The newspaper’s reporter asked whether Mr. Blake was “satisfied” with the LTTE explanation that it mistakenly attacked the diplomats and U.N. officials in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The rebels also complained that the government should have given them warning of the diplomatic visit.

“While I do not believe the LTTE intended to target diplomats and U.N. officials, the United States strongly condemns terrorism and calls on the LTTE to renounce terrorism and violence,” the ambassador responded.

In another development, Mr. Blake met Monday with Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to sign a logistical agreement that will allow the United States and Sri Lanka to share nonlethal aid in emergencies, peacekeeping missions and humanitarian operations. The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) is similar to one Washington has signed with 89 other countries.

“ACSA will facilitate the exchange of nonlethal equipment, increase cooperation in the field and reduce the paperwork involved,” Mr. Blake said.

“For example, if the Sri Lankan army had sent troops to assist the Pakistani earthquake and needed winter coats for the soldiers, under the ACSA the United States could provide those winter coats in exchange for fuel and foodstuffs the next time a U.S. vessel made a port call in Colombo.”

Council not ‘credible’

The United States yesterday dismissed the new U.N. Human Rights Council for failing to uphold its missions, as a State Department spokesman announced that Washington will remain off the panel for a second year.

Spokesman Sean McCormack complained that the 47-member council — which includes several nations with poor human rights records such as China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia — spends too much time criticizing Israel instead of denouncing human rights violations in nations such as Burma and North Korea.

“We believe that the Human Rights Council has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body in the mission that it has been charged with,” he said.

“We hope over time this body will expand its focus and become a more credible institution,” he added.

The council replaced the Human Rights Commission, which sustained similar criticism for including members that regularly violated the rights of its citizens.

Kofi Annan, before stepping down as U.N. secretary-general last year, also complained that the council ignored serious problems such as the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The United States will retain its observer status at the council, Mr. McCormack said.

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