Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Sri Lankan leader wants head of ceasefire observer

AFP , COLOMBO

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has stunned Scandinavian ceasefire monitors and peace brokers with her call to fire the chief observer, diplomats here said yesterday.

There was no immediate reaction from the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to Kumaratunga's overnight call to sack Norwegian army Major General Tryggve Tellefsen as the head of the monitoring mission.

"We knew that the president was unhappy with the SLMM, but no one expected her to take a drastic step like this," an Asian diplomat here said. "This puts the Norwegians in a difficult position."

Kumaratunga's office said in a statement that she wrote to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik demanding the removal of Tellefsen after accusing him of jeopardizing Sri Lanka's national security.

"It is considered that Major General Tellefsen's conduct has been unsatisfactory in so far as the security interests of Sri Lanka are concerned," Kumaratunga's office said.

In Oslo, Bondevik's office had no immediate comment, saying it had not yet received the letter.

Last year, Kumaratunga accused Norway's then ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jon Westborg, of helping Tamil Tiger rebels to import radio transmitting equipment, but the government cleared the top diplomat of any wrongdoing.

Kumaratunga has been critical of the handling of the peace process by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is from a rival party.

Wickremesinghe's government was elected in December 2001 and relaunched Norwegian-brokered talks aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

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