India extends ban on LTTE

NEW DELHI, May 14 (Reuters) - India extended on Tuesday its 1992 ban on Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels for another two years and said the step was also aimed at curbing separatist passions among India’s own Tamil population.

The extension comes despite a plea to New Delhi by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last month to lift the ban ahead of peace talks between the rebels and the Sri Lankan government.

India banned the LTTE in 1992 after blaming it for the 1991 assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Tamil Tigers are also outlawed by the United States, Britain and Canada.

"The unlawful activities of LTTE militants on Indian soil, as well as their contacts and liaison with other extremist groups, have been a matter of grave concern," an Indian government statement said.

It said the LTTE’s bloody fight for an independent state in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka continued to attract sympathy in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu which is home to 62 million Tamils.

Some small political groups in Tamil Nadu, with the support of the LTTE, also continued to advocate a larger, independent Tamil nation that included Tamil areas of Sri Lanka and India, the statement said.

"In view of the sensitivity of the matter and keeping in view the fact that LTTE had systematically infiltrated into Tamil Nadu... circumstances existed for declaring the LTTE unlawful."

The statement added the ban was extended for two years from May 14, 2002, on a recommendation of the Tamil Nadu government.

India outlawed the LTTE after a woman suicide bomber killed Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in southern India. The government accused LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran of ordering his death.

In 1987, when he was prime minister, Gandhi brokered an abortive peace pact between the Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan government.

More than 1,000 Indian peacekeeping troops sent to disarm the guerrillas between 1987 and 1990 died in the failed mission. Since then, India has maintained its distance from the island’s conflict despite attempts by Colombo and the rebels to secure its involvement.

Last month, India said the LTTE remained a terrorist organisation and added it would not be a part of the proposed peace talks.