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Thursday, July 26, 2001

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Britain offers to help

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, JULY 25. As terror-stricken British tourists, stranded in Sri Lanka, prepared to return home, the British Government strongly condemned the LTTE attack on the Colombo international airport and stressed the need for ``cross-party consensus'' on the peace process in the island nation.

The Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, in a statement urged both sides to ``cease hostilities'' and work towards a long-term solution through peaceful negotiations. ``We fully support the peace process and the efforts of the Norwegians in their role as facilitators and have made it clear to all those involved that we stand ready to help in any way, if asked,'' he said.

The audacious attack dominated the media headlines here amid concern that it could mark the ``start of a more ruthless campaign'', as The Times commented. Commentators stressed that Norway and Sri Lanka should not give up their peace efforts. There was also concern over the political turmoil in Colombo after President, Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, lost her Parliamentary majority. But the focus was largely on the plight of hundreds of tourists, many Britons, who were caught up in the ``crossfire''.

Newspapers carried extensive eyewitness accounts and the British Government advised its citizens to avoid Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. There was much speculation about the effect of the terrorist flare-up on Sri Lanka's tourism.

The Guardian in a report from Colombo said the damage to the country's reputation as a tourist paradise was likely to be ``substantial''.

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