COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ An American arrested for suspected links with Tamil separatists left for home early today.

Kenneth Mulder, 26, worked with the National Christian Council in Colombo, a group of churches providing relief to areas hit by the fighting between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka's 12-year civil war.

Mulder was arrested July 21 by the military while trying to enter a rebel-held area in the north.

``Mulder was put aboard an Airlanka flight to Zurich in the early hours of this morning,'' said J.A. Ariyasena, the head of the department of immigration.

He said Mulder was expected to take an American Airlines flight from Zurich to New York. Officials said Mulder was from Michigan, but did not specify the city.

``In the interest of good relations with the United States, we decided to expel him rather than prosecute him,'' said U.B. Kotakadeniya, deputy police inspector-general.

Mulder arrived in Sri Lanka four months ago. After an earlier visit to rebel-held areas this month, he put up a poster in his Colombo office criticizing President Chandrika Kumaratunga's fund-raising campaign to finance the war against Tamil Tigers.

The rebels have been fighting for a homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east since 1983. More than 35,000 people have been killed.