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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Department's August 19 Statement

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001401

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR INR/MR, I/RW, I/REC; PA
SA/INS (CAMP, DEAN, BRENNIG) SA/PD (SCENSNY, ROGERS,
STRYKER);SSA/PAS; S/CT

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: KPAO PHUM OPRC KMDR OIIP PREL CE LTTE
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: DEPARTMENT'S AUGUST 19 STATEMENT
ON SRI LANKA GARNERS COPIUOS MEDIA COVERAGE

1. SUMMARY. The Department's August 19 statement on Sri
Lanka elicited widespread media coverage, with the vast
majority of papers (both English and vernacular) placing
the statement very prominently in above-the-fold banner
headlines. TV news programs on August 20 also led with the
full statement, and carried it again on their evening
broadcasts. Editorial comment adopted the tone of the
statement and called for a return to peace talks. END
SUMMARY.

---------
Headlines
---------

2. Headlines on August 21 uniformly praised the statement,
with the independent English DAILY MIRROR bannering: "Stop
killings and start talking peace: U.S. tells LTTE."
Typical of the coverage was government-owned English DAILY
NEWS, which said: "U.S. urges LTTE to cease killings
return to talks; President Kumaratunga shows desire to move
forward on peace process." The independent English DAILY
ISLAND led with: "U.S. tightens screws on Tigers; Iyer
killing triggers avalanche of condemnation." Even the pro-
LTTE Tamil daily SUDAR OLI reported: "The U.S. press the
government and the LTTE to resume talks immediately."
Independent Sinhala flagship paper LAKBIMA said:
"Assistance scheduled for Sri Lanka will come only if the
peace process is moved forward - America emphasizes." The
mainstream independent Sinhala DIVAINA said: "Renounce all
types of violence including suicide bombings, political
killings: restart peace talks with the government - another
stern statement from America."

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3. Television coverage of the statement was also
widespread, with stations in all three languages -- both
government-owned and independent -- leading with the text
almost verbatim on the afternoon news broadcasts, and
replaying it in the evening.

-------------------
Editorial excerpts:
--------------------

3. Under the header "World concern amplifies at LTTE
terror," the government-owned English DAILY NEWS (08/21)
commented: "Yesterday's statement by the U.S. government,
coming close on the heels of one by the EU, highlighting
the need for the LTTE to enter immediately the negotiary
process with the Lankan government, further amplifies
concern by (a) section of the world community over the
LTTE's unimpressive track record on accelerating the peace
effort.... Thus is LTTE intransigence and unconscionable
backsliding continuing to shock the peace-loving sections
of the world community.... Mindless recalcitrance would take
the LTTE nowhere."

4. Under the header "Myth of sole representative blasted,"
the independent English daily ISLAND commented (08/21): "....
Whether these nations, which involved themselves in the Sri
Lankan issue solely on humanitarian grounds will take
measures to prevent the massacre of these innocents will be
seen in the coming days.... Of how the 'international
community' wittingly and unwittingly became embroiled in
this 'Peace Process' is too well known to be detailed.... the
'international community' awoke last week after a spate of
killings of EPDP members and issued a somewhat strong
statement for the first time.... It is time these western
nations and Japan acknowledged this fact and told it to the
LTTE warlords."

5. COMMENT: The widespread and prominent attention the
media gave the statement reflects keen interest in the U.S.
position regarding the peace process. The statement served
to reassure television and newspaper audiences that the
U.S. remains engaged and concerned on this issue. END
COMMENT.

ENTWISTLE

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