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Cablegate: Sri Lankan Ambassador to U.S. Alleges Ltte Sold Norwegian

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OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0756/01 1450509
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 250509Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6117
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000756

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MCC FOR S. GROFF, D. TETER, D. NASSIRY AND E. BURKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV KFRD CVIS CMGT CPAS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S. ALLEGES LTTE SOLD NORWEGIAN
PASSPORTS TO TERRORIST GROUPS

1. (SBU) Summary: Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the United States,
Bernard Goonetilleke, stated in a May 17 radio interview that
130,000 Norwegian passports were in the hands of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were selling them to Middle
Eastern terrorist groups. On May 21, the Norwegian Embassy Foreign
Ministry denied the allegations. The source of Goonetilleke's
disinformation was an Oslo-based organization, Norwegians Against
Terrorism (NAT), headed by Falk Rovik, a convicted murderer who has
spent time in both prison and a mental asylum. Post has no
information on an alleged LTTE connection to Middle Eastern
terrorists and believes that Rovik's claims are false. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) On May 17, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United
States, Bernard Goonetilleke, stated in an interview with Washington
Post radio that 130,000 Norwegian passports were in the hands of the
LTTE, who were selling them to members of Middle Eastern terrorist
groups actively opposed to the United States. Ambassador
Goonetilleke stated that 700 Norwegian passports were being sold in
Thailand, and that the LTTE had stolen 130,000 passports and were
selling them to Al-Qaeda. The source of his information was an
Oslo-based organization, Norwegians Against Terrorism, headed by a
convicted murderer, Falk Rovik, who has spent time in both prison
and a mental asylum.

3. (SBU) Embassy Colombo contacted Norwegian Embassy political
officer and spokesman Erik Nurnberg, who confirmed that the
allegations were baseless. He alerted the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, which issued a press release concerning the missing
passport story, denying most of the facts stated in Ambassador
Goonetilleke's interview. The statement from the Norwegian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs directly refuted Goonetilleke's statement
regarding the 700 passports in Thailand and said the allegations had
"no basis in reality."

4. (SBU) Rovik's story, echoed by Ambassador Goonetilleke, appears
to stem from an incident in Norway where a policeman sold 9
passports to a Norwegian Tamil. The passports were reported as
stolen, and the policeman was prosecuted. The figure of 130,000
passports is the total number of Norwegian passports reported lost
by their owners over the past 20 years. This appears to be roughly
in line with stolen passport statistics for other European and
developed countries.

5. (SBU) The Norwegian police have no information indicating the
LTTE or Al Qaeda are in possession of missing Norwegian passports.
Post also has no information on the alleged LTTE-Al Qaeda connection
and believes that Rovik's claims are completely false. The source
of the disinformation is a virulently anti-Norwegian website hosted
by Rovik's organization Norwegians Against Terror (NAT), which
alleges terrorist connections between Al Qaeda, the LTTE, Saddam
Hussein and King Harald of Norway. It also encourages people around
the world to boycott Norwegian products. NAT's address is a post
office box in Oslo. Rovik, NAT's leader (and possibly only member)
has visited Sri Lanka often and is a favorite of the Sinhalese
nationalist media.

6. (SBU) However, the Sri Lankan government GSL and Sinhalese
nationalist organizations have heartily applauded NAT's campaign.
Thousands of Tamils who have emigrated from Sri Lanka live in Norway
and other western countries and actively lobby their governments for
assistance to Tamils living in Sri Lanka. The GSL has lately been
signaling its disapproval of Norway's role as facilitator, implying
that Norway is biased toward the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapaksa
has recently made public statements against countries that the GSL
considers to be soft on terrorism, but failed to name specific
countries. The Defense Ministry has recently twice denied
permission for Norwegian peace facilitators to travel to the de
facto LTTE capital of Kilinochchi for routine discussions with the

COLOMBO 00000756 002 OF 002


Tigers. Moreover, the government defense spokesman has publicly
mused recently about "reviewing" the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: At best, the Government of Sri Lanka has fallen
into the trap of believing and redisseminating propaganda that
originated from a particularly scurrilous source. However, the
reality may not be so benign. Rovik's many trips to Sri Lanka and
his ties to Sinhalese extremist parties close to the government
raise questions about whether this is in fact part of a ham-handed
disinformation campaign intended to isolate Norway from the rest of
the international community.

BLAKE

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