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We deeply regret Rajiv's death: LTTE

Reuters

Posted: Jun 27, 2006 at 2000 hrs IST

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels urged India on Tuesday to put aside years of distrust and once again try to bring peace to the island.

India accuses the Tigers of assassinating former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, which came after a failed attempt by Indian peacekeepers to help end civil war in Sri Lanka.

"The only role which she (India) can play is diplomatically and politically persuading the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to seek a negotiated settlement rather than involving in a military confrontation," Chief rebel negotiator Anton Balasingham told a TV channel.

He said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were not seeking military intervention by India.

Violence has soared on the Indian Ocean island nation, where a wave of attacks have killed around 700 people this year, straining a 2002 ceasefire between the military and the LTTE and raising fears of a return to civil war.

Gandhi was blown up by a suspected rebel suicide bomber in Tamil Nadu.

The Tigers have never admitted involvement in the attack but Balasingham urged New Delhi to put the assassination behind it.

"As far as that event is concerned, I would say it is a great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy for which we deeply regret and we call upon the government of India and people of India to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective," Balasingham said.

India has supported efforts to end the civil war, which killed 64,000 people over two decades until the 2002 truce, but earlier efforts proved disastrous.

India armed and trained the LTTE in the mid-1980s but later sent peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka's Tamil-held areas before becoming locked in open war with the rebels and was forced to pull out.

More than 1,000 Indian soldiers were killed during that effort. India declared the LTTE a terrorist outfit after Gandhi's murder and has kept away from the conflict ever since.

Balasingham said the LTTE had pledged to the Indian government that the rebels would under no circumstance act against New Delhi's interests.

"What we feel is India should actively involve in the peace process. We are prepared to build up a new understanding a new relationship with the government of India provided she makes a positive gesture," he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Indian Foreign Ministry to his comments.

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