Tamil Tigers deny forcing children to take up arms
DUBLIN (AFP) Oct 11, 2003
The political leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels Friday denied accusations by the UN agency for children that the group has been abducting youngsters and enrolling them in its armed forces.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who demand self determination in the north and east of Sri Lanka, Friday ended five days of internal talks in Ireland focusing on a power-share plan ahead of a final peace deal for the embattled South Asian island.

"We consider these allegations to be based on wrong facts, wrong reporting, and a biaised campaign of misinformation and disinformation," LTTE chief Paramu Tamilselvan told journalists at a final press conference near Dublin, referring to the UN claims.

Earlier in the week, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) accused the rebels of having kidnapped children in eastern Sri Lanka, only days after the UN group opened its first transit home in Sri Lanka to demobilise underage soldiers.

Tamilselvan said children who had lost their families in decades of bloody conflict were joining the Tigers on their own initiative.

"If the organisation throws them out onto the street, they would become subject to various abuses. We don't want that to happen," he added.

Tamilselvan also said that the Sri Lankan government would receive a response by the end of the month to its proposals for sharing power in the north and east of the island.

The LTTE delegation in Ireland involved 11 negotiators and support staff. Two Sri Lankan government civil servants addressed the participants as well as a number of international academics, legal and constitutional experts.

Peace negotiations were suspended in April after the Tigers accused the Sri Lankan government of failing to deliver on promises made at six rounds of talks since September last year.

LTTE claimed not enough was being done to rebuild war-ravaged parts of the northeast and demanded more of a role in the administration of reconstruction funding.

In the 1980s, the LTTE resorted to violence to achieve a separate state, Tamil Eelam, in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

A peace process was initiated in December 2001 with Norwegian government mediation. A ceasefire was negotiated that came into force in February 2002.