Colombo, December 29:

Sri Lanka’s defence secretary said the government should formally pull out of a ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels amid escalating fighting in the island, a state-run daily reported today.

A 2002 Norwegian-brokered truce began to unravel in December 2005 and both sides have blamed each other for the mounting violence which has claimed over 6,000 lives since then, according to government figures.

“The ceasefire agreement exists only on paper. Obviously we can see there is no ceasefire,” Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is President Mahinda Rajapakse’s younger brother, told the Daily News.

“It has become a joke,” the defence secretary said. “I think the most sensible thing is that we must end this ceasefire agreement by officially declaring there is no ceasefire agreement.” The internationally backed deal requires either party to give two weeks’ notice to Norway before formally ending it.

“Why should we hoodwink the people by saying there is a ceasefire agreement?” Rajapakse said, adding that the rebel LTTE should be formally banned. “It is a terrorist organisation and we are fighting them,” he said.

Meanwhile, separate pre-dawn clashes in the north today left two LTTE rebels and a soldier killed, military said.

Sri Lankan soldiers launched an attack on a rebel bunker in the Muhamalai region today killing two ultras, military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The bunker that lay ahead of a defence line that separates government and rebel-held territories was destroyed.