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AP: Sri Lankan Rebel Leader Sounds Off

June 21, 2006

KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Sri Lankan rebel leader said Wednesday his group would use all means necessary _ including suicide bombers _ if full-scale war erupts on the island nation.

S.P. Tamilselvan, political chief of the Tamil Tiger rebels, made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press amid weeks of increasing violence he blamed on the Sri Lankan military and other groups opposed to the Tigers. He denied that the separatist militants had played any role in violence in areas under government control.

Tamilselvan called the 2002 cease-fire that ended nearly 20 years of combat ``a dead letter ... that has no meaning at all.″

But he said the Tigers were willing to sit down again for peace talks as long as the government allows the Tigers’ Central Committee _ its main decision-making body _ to gather safely from a series of scattered guerrilla bases across the island to talk about the situation.

Tensions increased significantly following the bombing of a passenger bus last week that killed 64 people _ the worst single act of violence since the cease-fire. Tamilselvan said the recent escalation in violence was the fault of the government, pro-government political parties and a Tiger faction that has broken away from the main group.

He also warned that full-scale war would be bloody.

``If war is let loose by the government on the Tamil people ... We definitely will make use of all the weapons in our arsenal _ not only weapons, but manpower.″

Asked if that would include suicide bombers, he said: ``In facing war ... of course we will use all our resources.″

The rebels have been fighting for more than two decades to create a homeland for the country’s 3.2 million predominantly Hindu Tamils, a minority some say has faced decades of discrimination by the largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The civil war killed more than 65,000 people before the cease-fire, and talks to build on the truce have faltered as sporadic shootings and bombings have grown increasingly frequent.

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