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ASIAN CANADIAN

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

India says Tamil Tigers may have acquired aircraft

India has reportedly offered to help Sri Lanka redesign its air defence network after allegations Tamil Tiger rebels have acquired at least two aircraft.

Reports say New Delhi has told visiting Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga it is willing to consider all proposals from Colombo, including training Sri Lankan personnel, or providing guidance and advice in designing air defences.

The offer was reportedly made during talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kumaratunga, who is on a three day-visit to India.

Kumaratunga's government charges that the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have built an airstrip in the north and possess at least two light aircraft.

European truce monitors say they have seen the airstrip from the air but have been denied access by the rebels to investigate allegations they have aircraft. "Those two aircraft, if they have any, represent a very serious threat," the monitoring mission said last week.

India, which once armed and trained the Tigers, warned last month that they were acquiring aircraft.

"We are concerned about the LTTE having built an airstrip and having two airplanes, and there's news about more coming," India's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said.

The guerrillas agreed in December 2002 to settle for a federal solution to the long-running conflict. But the Norwegian-brokered discussions have remained inconclusive since April 2003.

Both sides have largely abided by a truce struck in February 2002.

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