CLOMBO, May 30, Reuter: Sri Lanka today denied Indian accusations that it was massacring Tamil civilians in its offensive against separatist guerrillas in the Jaffna peninsula.

In a detailed statement, Foreign Minister Shahul Hameed said the charges “do not reflect the exact situation” and were “intended to prejudice the foreign community” against Sri Lanka.

He accused India of preventing a peaceful solution to his country’s ethnic conflict by harboring and sponsoring Sri Lankan rebels in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu.

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Narain Dutt Tiwari both bitterly condemned the offensive this week and urged Colombo to halt it. Gandhi referred to a “massacre of unarmed combatant civilians”.

Without naming the Indian leaders, Hameed said the charges they made of calculated slaughter of thousands of citizens, carnage, Carpet bombing and human rights violations were a “terminological inexactitude”. “In the confrontation, terrorists and soldiers have been killed. The few civilian casualties were those caught in the ceasefire,” he said.

“Our planes are neither designed nor have the capacity to engage in carpet bombing,” he added.

According to the government about 140 rebels, 30 soldiers and 20 civilians have been killed since the offensive started on Tuesday.

In the Tamil Nadu capital of Madras the main Sri Lankan rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said on Thursday that more than 500 Tamil civilians has been killed and hundreds injured in the Jaffna offensive.

Neither side has produced any evidence to back its claims.

Hameed said India and Tamil Nadu bore responsibility for the ethnic bloodshed in Sri Lanka, where the rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for the two million Tamil minority.

“A peaceful solution could have been worked out but for the fact that separatist terrorism has been harboured,” Hameed said.

Sri Lanka had yet to hear of the government of India “curbing the Tamil Nadu State from aiding and abetting the terrorists or demanding of the terrorists that they halt the killing of civilians”, he added.

He regretted that the Indian Defense Attache in Colombo had declined to accompany a group of foreign diplomats and correspondents who flew to Jaffna today with the military to assess the situation.

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 5, 1987