Sweden Pulls Out of Sri Lanka

Sweden decided Tuesday to pull out its 15-strong cease-fire monitoring team from Sri Lanka, joining Finland and Denmark who last week announced similar moves.

Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson told Swedish Radio he saw no other option but for the Swedish observers to leave the island, where fighting between government troops and separatist Tamils has escalated.

The European Union in May designated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, a terrorist group, prompting the rebels to reject the presence of observers from EU members Sweden, Finland and Denmark, claiming they could not be objective.

Eliasson said that ”the Tamil Tigers have stayed staunchly at their position not to have citizens of EU countries represented in the observer mission,”

The Foreign Minister added that ”unfortunately I reached the conclusion that, when one of the partners no longer accepts the presence of Nordic EU countries, it would be very difficult to remain there.”

Finland and Denmark said on Friday they would withdraw their nationals from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, or SLMM.

Finland has 12 monitors while Denmark has eight monitors in the 60- strong mission.

Eliasson voiced concern ahead of the pullout, which he said would be completed by September 1.

The Sri Lankan government criticized Nordic countries for giving in to terrorists’ demands.