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30/08/2006

LTTE's water war: In the last week of July, the Sri Lankan army launched a ground offensive against Tamil tiger rebels to regain control over a key water reservoir in the northeastern city of Trincomalee district. The battle is considered to be the fiercest since the 2002 cease-fire agreement. Till reports last received, at least five soldiers and 40 Tamil rebels have been killed.

The island-nation's northeast region is divided into government and rebel-held areas. The sluice gate of the disputed water reservoir is in a guerrilla-controlled territory but supplies water to government-held areas. According to media reports, on July 20, the rebels surrounded the reservoir, accusing the government of reneging on a promise to build a water tower for people living in rebel-held areas. Since then, they have closed the reservoir's Mavilaru anicut, thereby disrupting water supply to villages in Trincomalee district. Following the seizure of the reservoir, Sri Lanka's military responded with four days of airstrikes on rebel bases in the area before deploying ground forces. According to the government, disruption of water supply in the harvesting season has already destroyed half of the paddy crop while the rest is dying. Meanwhile, Norway, which facilitated the 2002 ceasefire pact between Sri Lanka and Tamil rebels, has urged immediate cessation of hostilities in the island-nation.

safta pops in: As the recent SAARC foreign secretary meet at Dhaka failed to address India's concerns over implementation of the agreement on the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA), the issue will now be taken up at a regular ministerial-level meeting of SAFTA. During the SAARC meet, India had taken strong objection to Pakistan attaching conditions to trade with it under SAFTA agreement, which came into effect on July 1, 2006. India said Pakistan's move was a negation of the agreement and jeopardised implementation of the pact decided upon by all seven-member countries. India's objection was based on Pakistan's recent notification, which limits SAFTA tariff concessions for India to items on the existing bilateral positive list, said the Indian foreign secretary Shaym Saran.

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