INTERNATIONAL NEWS: US military team to help Sri Lanka in publicity war

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: After winning parliamentary elections earlier this month, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has chosen an American PR organization affiliated with the US military to help advise the government on media relations.

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: After winning parliamentary elections earlier this month, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has chosen an American PR organization affiliated with the US military to help advise the government on media relations.

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: After winning parliamentary elections earlier this month, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has chosen an American PR organization affiliated with the US military to help advise the government on media relations.

A four-member group of public affairs officers from the US National Guard has met in Colombo with 20 Sri Lankan officials representing the country's defense ministry, police and armed forces.

The group's task is to report on the military's role in the country's continuing civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, who have battled since 1983 for a homeland in the north and east. Nearly 63,000 people have been killed in the war.

US Embassy spokesman Stephen Holgate said the US PR team's role is 'to increase the expertise of Sri Lankan officials handling public affairs.'

A Sri Lankan government spokesman said: 'All news that may be considered prejudicial to the interests of national security and the preservation of public order are subject to censorship under emergency regulations.'

Emergency rule allows the armed forces to search homes and detain anyone suspected of involvement in the war.

Kumaratunga's People's Alliance won only 107 seats in parliamentary elections - just short of a majority, or 113 seats, in the 225-member Parliament.

After scrambling to form a coalition government, Kumaratunga swore in a hard-line prime minister who believes the government should keep waging the war against Tamil rebels.

Kumaratunga had called the election to try to win enough seats to push through a new constitution giving the minority Tamils greater autonomy.



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