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INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS TO BE HELD IN COLOMBO Jan-1998

A release from the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday noted that in view of the brutal attack carried out by terrorists on the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on Sunday and as a mark of respect to the Sacred Tooth Relic enshrined in the Maligawa, it has now been decided by the Government to hold the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of independence in Colombo. However, the religious rites that were to be performed at the Maligawa on Independence Day would be carried out without change. Meanwhile, the Government of Sri Lanka on Monday proscribed the LTTE after they exploded a bomb near the Dalada Maligawa or the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, which is one of the UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites.

US STATE DEPARTMENT STRONGLY CONDEMNS LTTE ATTACK ON TEMPLE

The US State Department in a release issued on Monday said that the United States "strongly condemns" Sunday's attack on Sri Lanka's principal Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and called upon "the LTTE to cease all acts of terrorism". The State Department report further noted that the United States continues to support a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka, and added that the United States believes that "the Sri Lankan Government's wide-ranging proposals for constitutional reform constitute a solid basis for a peaceful solution to this tragic conflict". The State Department also extended its condolences to all the persons and families affected by this act of violence.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNS LTTE'S ATTACK ON CIVILIANS AT HISTORIC TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH

In a message to representatives of the LTTE abroad on Monday, Amnesty International condemned the killing of civilians in Sunday's attack on the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. "The deliberate killings of civilians by armed opposition groups are human rights abuses which cannot be tolerated under any circumstances," Amnesty International said today. Three members of the LTTE drove a truck loaded with explosives through roadblocks and detonated it in front of the Temple just after 6 a.m on Sunday. The victims are reportedly all pilgrims who were on their way to worship at the Temple. Among them are five members of one family from Embilipitiya, Ratnapura District, including a two-year-old and a seven-year-old child. Amnesty International also expressed concern that the attack flouts the principle of distinction set out in international humanitarian standards which govern the conduct of hostilities, and asked them to abide by the basic principles of international humanitarian law. In the mean time, the Tamil Information Centre (TIC) an NGO based in London, expressed its shock at the holiest 16th century Buddhist Temple in Sri Lanka, which enshrines Lord Buddha's tooth, being so attacked and damaged, and condemned the attack.

KANDY'S TOURIST ATTRACTION UNDIMINISHED

There has been 70 to 80 percent occupancy at hotels in the Central Province on Monday, the day after the bomb explosion near the Dalada Maligawa, said the President of the Kandy Hotelier's Association, Rohan Perera. There has been no cancellation of bookings at any of the hotels. Though foreign guests were shocked by the blast, they did not wish to leave Kandy, he added. However, with the Dalada Maligawa, the key attraction for tourists visiting Kandy, being made out of bounds after the bomb blast, the tourists had spent more time in the royal Botanical Gardens and other sites, he added.

====================================================================== COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Sri Lanka's president urged Tamil rebels to put down their weapons and talk peace today while the capital recovered from a bombing and gunbattles this week that left 18 dead. "Even at this minute we are prepared to stop our military campaign" for the talks, President Chandrika Kumaratunga told reporters. But she said she would do so only if rebels, who have been fighting a 14-year war for an independent homeland, surrendered their arms. Military officials believe the guerrillas will be forced to the negotiating table following recent army successes. The rebels did not immediately respond. In the past they have rejected the president's appeals for peace talks. The civil war has left 50,000 people dead and caused widespread economic hardship in this island nation of 18 million people off the southern tip of India. The rebels say Tamils, who make up just 18 percent of the population, need their own homeland because they're discriminated against by the Sinhalese majority. Soldiers searched today for rebels suspected of setting off a truck bomb Wednesday and then battling troops for several hours. The bomb, containing nearly 900 pounds of explosives, damaged office towers in the heart of Colombo's financial district. Along with the deaths, about 100 people were injured, including seven Americans. It was the first major rebel attack on the capital this year. About 75,000 troops are fighting the Tamil rebels in the northern jungles and in the east coast. The rebels reportedly have denied involvement in Wednesday's violence.

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Last week, the U.S State Department included the Tamil rebels on its list of organizations considered to be terrorist, barring it from raising funds in the United States.


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