Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, who is said to be facing a military rout at the hands of the government troops, has 'agreed to a rescue mission by a western country', a state-run media report said Sunday.
The report comes a week after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) lost the cream of its fighting cadre, including a dozen battle-hardened leaders in the fight for Puthukkudiyiruppu. It was their last bastion where the rebels had maintained several military and naval bases and armoury over the past three decades.
It said that the 'diplomatic moves are now on' to get the LTTE to agree to allow the civilians to move out of the No-Fire-Zone. The government has refused to agree to any ceasefire with the LTTE at this juncture, fearing that 'the LTTE may use such an opportunity to strengthen itself or to flee the country with the support of outsiders'.
'Diplomatic sources indicate that Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has apparently agreed to a rescue mission by a Western country,' the state-run Sunday Observer said.
'He has agreed to this offer after he lost all his top level leaders in the Puthukkudiyiruppu battle as there is no point for him to operate there in the No-Fire-Zone without the ability to give leadership to the remaining cadres,' it said.
Amid mounting international concern for the safety of thousands of civilians trapped in a small strip of coastal land in the island's north-eastern Mullaitivu district, US ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert O'Blake had met Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka.
According to the media report, the US ambassador 'had apparently made a request for him (army chief) to agree to a seven days' ceasefire to rescue the civilians trapped inside the No-Fire-Zone'.
'But the army commander has reportedly said that any decision to enter into ceasefire should be taken by the government but has agreed to have a 48-hour pause in firing if there is a guarantee that civilians are allowed to move out of the No-Fire-Zone freely,' the Sunday Observer said.
Killing over 525 LTTE cadres in 72 hours of fierce battle for Puthukkudiyiruppu, the military said that the troops were 'close to the last leg of the war' against the LTTE which has been fighting for a separate state over the past quarter century.
'As the troops are poised to enter the No-Fire-Zone, it has been reported that Prabhakaran is making an effort to flee the country apparently with the assistance of the Norwegian government,' the media report said.
It said although there had been no official intimation about the discussions the Tamil Tigers had with the Norwegian government, LTTE's political leader Nadesan has had a lengthy discussion with the Norwegians about the situation in the No-Fire-Zone.
There is no immediate response from the LTTE in this regard.
A top visiting UN envoy has said that over 100,000 civilians were 'trapped in the 14 sq km no-fire zone' and expressed deep concern for their lives.
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