The government yesterday emphasized it was not on an offensive to capture land from the LTTE even as the military said the fall of Thoppigala, possibly the last major LTTE bastion in the east, was close at hand and the north would be next.
A top military officer told the DailyMirror that moves to get the LTTE out of Thoppigala were gathering pace and would be the final thrust in liberating the east.
`Once the east is cleared if there are threats by the LTTE from Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, then we will take action to liberate those areas as well but that is a long way ahead,` he said though admitting liberating the north would not be as easy as the east.
However government Defence Spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said it was wrong to assume the government was pursuing an offensive against the LTTE even though the rebels were giving `flimsy` excuses to avoid peace talks.
LTTE military wing spokesman Rasiah Illantheriyan told the Daily Mirror last week President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s latest offer for the rebels to disarm and resume negotiations was not logical and would not be considered seriously.
The President made the offer during a landmark visit to Vakarai and Sampur, two areas once dominated by the LTTE but subsequently taken over by the military.
`It is not a matter of making gains. We have repeatedly invited the LTTE for talks but history has shown the LTTE has given flimsy excuses to withdraw from negotiations. When the President made the latest offer, the LTTE flatly rejected it even without giving it serious consideration,` Minister Rambukwella said.
Although the President had urged the LTTE to lay down arms to resume talks, Mr. Rambukwella said it was not a condition for talks but stressed that the rebels must give up violence for a fruitful dialogue.
`We still want the Tigers to be stakeholders in the process but negotiations will not be just with them when there are other democratically-elected Tamil parties as well. The LTTE must stop all hostilities and harassment of Tamils. Can a democratic government remain silent if national security is threatened? We will do what is necessary to safeguard our territorial integrity but at the same time we want the LTTE to come for talks,` Mr. Rambukwella said.
Aerial and ground attacks continued this week between government troops and the LTTE prompting the Britain`s deputy foreign minister, Kim Howells, to warn that if the conflict continued, it would corrode the quality of Sri Lanka`s democracy and also tarnish the country`s image internationally and hold back the country`s development.