Fighters with the largest Tamil rebel group failed to turn over their weapons to Indian peace-keeping troops as scheduled today, but an Indian official said the guerrillas would announce their surrender Tuesday.
In New Delhi, a Foreign Ministry official said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran will announce the decision to "lay down their arms" Tuesday at a public meeting in the rebel stronghold of Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna province.
The official, who requested anonymity, estimated that it would take two to three days before Liberation Tiger fighters laid down their arms in accordance with an Indian-backed plan to end the island's civil war.
"It took a lot of persuading by us to convince (Prabhakaran) on a number of matters regarding security. He agreed but said he would have to first go back to Jaffna and talk to his people," the official said.
National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali denied that there were problems with the weapons turnover by the rebels and said Prabhakaran needed more time to gather his field commanders.
A senior Indian diplomat in Colombo said Indian helicopters were shuttling rebel field commanders from across the country to meet with Prabhakaran, who returned to Sri Lanka's rebel stronghold Sunday. (Story, Page 6.)
The Indian Foreign Ministry official said that about 3,000 Indian troops landed at the eastern Sri Lankan port of Trincomalee today in support of the cease-fire accord. Eight Indian naval vessels were also in Trincomalee harbor, unloading heavy equipment and vehicles, the sources said.
The battalion was the first Indian detachment in the eastern province. There are 5,000 Indian troops in the northern province, where Jaffna is located.
The disarming of the Liberation Tiger fighters would fulfill a major provision of an accord signed last Wednesday by Sri Lanka and India aimed at ending the war between the rebels and the government that erupted in 1983. Prabhakaran had initially rejected the accord, but reversed his decision after eight days of talks with Indian officials.