LTTE proposals go beyond bounds of Oslo, Tokyo declarations — Armitage
"No reason to deproscribe LTTE"

By Namini Wijedasa in Washington
America on Monday welcomed LTTE proposals for an interim administration but emphasized that boundaries set by the Oslo and Tokyo Declarations must be adhered to: namely, federalism, democratic society, respect for human rights and territorial integrity.

"This is the first time I have seen such a comprehensive delineation of the LTTE’s aspirations and in that regard I, .think it’s significant," said Acting Secretary of State Richard Armitage. "But I would think from my reading of this almost twelve page document that it does go outside the bounds of what was envisioned in Oslo and in Tokyo... where we talked about a federation, democratic society, respect for human rights and territorial integrity."

"This being the first time that such a comprehensive delineation has been made, it is significant and may form the basis for the way forward," he reiterated. "But I would say that we need to come back to the boundaries envisioned by the Tokyo and Oslo Declarations."

Armitage was fielding questions from journalists after meeting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. While he holds position of deputy state secretary, he is currently acting for Secretary of State Colin Powell who is visiting Panama.

Asked whether the latest developments would improve Tiger chances of being struck off the US Foreign Terrorists Organisation (FTO) list, Armitage replied in the negative.

"This does not in any way remove the LTTE from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations," he said. "In order to be removed from the list, the LTTE must in word and deed eschew the use of terrorism, the use of violence against innocents, as a political weapon.

Armitage also commented on continued child conscription by the LTTE: "My understanding is that the conscription of children or the so-called phenomenon of child soldiers is still continuing. Assistant Secretary Rocca testified at Congress and we have had other publications from the department of state that decried this."

"It’s a terrible blot on society when children are impressed into military combat," he said.

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca told Congress on October 29 that the United States was working to "bring down" terror networs in South Asia. She also said the LTTE’s FTO designation could be revoked only if the group renounced terrorism and ceased all terrorist activity

Asked about reports of continued LTTE arms smuggling, Armitage said the US was "quite concerned that there are reports of arms smuggling". He pointed out that it was against international laws.

"We want to be on the side of those trying to throttle arms smuggling and we will continue to look at ways in which to do that," he explained. "We will exchange information with the government of Sri Lanka and work with like-minded countries to stop the illegal transfer of weapons across national boundaries."

Armitage was also questioned about America’s continued interest in Sri Lanka, despite having more serious issues on its plate like Iraq.

"I think our strategic interest is that where there is violence and struggle in any place, it can spread to other places," he replied. "So, in that regard, we have a strategic interest. But the overwhelming interest we have is one of humanity and the development of Sri Lanka."

"We want this island to be a full and complete partner in the economy, not only of South Asia but of the globe," he continued. "We see no reason why Sri Lanka can’t be an engine of growth in South Asia and I look forward to the day with it will be so."

Elaborating on his discussions with Wickremesinghe, Armitage said they had talked about Sri Lanka’s economic situation, the LTTE proposals and the political situation. He said that the US will continue to assist Sri Lanka but stressed that the benefits must be enjoyed by the entire country, not just the north and east.