Sweden pulls monitors out of Sri Lanka

Sweden said on Tuesday it would recall its ceasefire monitors from Sri Lanka, while fearing the move could increase fighting between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson said he regretted the decision, which comes days after similar moves by Finland and Denmark, prompted by a Tamil Tiger demand to remove European Union nationals from the monitoring group.

“We regret that we are forced to do this, but the Tamil Tigers stand by their position that they don’t want EU nationals represented in the monitoring mission,” Eliasson told Swedish radio from Brussels.

Eliasson said he hoped that the impact of the pullout would be limited, “but I can’t rule out that this could lead to increased fighting”.

Rebels demanded that monitors from Sweden, Denmark and Finland leave the country after the 25-nation EU added the LTTE to its list of “terrorist” organisations in May.

The other members of the 57-member observer mission come from non-EU states Iceland and Norway.

The Swedish observers are to leave Sri Lanka before September 1.

The departure of the EU observers is expected to cripple the Swedish-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) at a time when the monitors have asked for a 25 percent increase in their numbers to oversee the collapsing 2002 ceasefire.