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Intelsat to turn off LTTE beam

Tigers’ satellite piracy bared

US: The Washington-based Intelsat gave a firm assurance yesterday that it would take all possible steps to stop the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from illegally broadcasting its propaganda over their satellites.

“Intelsat does not tolerate terrorists operating illegally on it satellites. Since we first learned of the LTTE’s signal piracy, we have been actively pursuing a number of technical alternatives to halt the transmissions. We are clear in our resolve to ending this terrorist organisation’s unauthorised use of our satellite,” Intelsat, the world’s largest provider of fixed satellite services, said in a statement.

The announcement came after Intelsat officials and technical experts met Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States Bernard Goonetilleke on Tuesday to discuss the steps Intelsat was taking to address the unauthorised use of one of its satellites by the LTTE.

“We have been actively pursuing avenues to terminate the illegal usage of our satellite,” Intelsat spokesman Nick Mitsis said.

In a telephone interview, Intelsat’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Phillip Spector told this correspondent that his corporation would do “every possible thing to turn off the LTTE (sponsored national Television of Tamil Eelam and Voice of the Tigers radio programme) as soon as possible” from their satellite.

Spector maintained the position of the corporation that the LTTE was pirating an empty transponder frequency of their Satellite 12 for the broadcasts. He said it was actually stealing the space of the satellite and called it piracy.

Asked whether al-Qaeda could use the same satellite for the purpose of an attack against the United States, Spector said it was only a hypothetical situation. But when pressed for an answer, Spector said it was technically possible.

Spector said no customer is authorised to sell their frequency to anybody else and maintained it was an empty space the LTTE was using. Spector denied earlier published newspaper reports that Intelsat has done business with Hezbollah, another terrorist group, and insisted “Not in my time”.

While refusing to give a date for turning off the LTTE, the Intelsat lawyer said “if you understand the satellite technology it is quite a complex task and it will be done as soon as possible”.

Intelsat said: “Intelsat, the leading provider of global satellite communications, today issued a statement with regard to the unauthorised use of one of its satellites by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The US State Department lists the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The Sri Lanka Embassy and Intelsat agree that these illegal transmissions by the LTTE are a violation of Sri Lankan and US laws. Following the dis

cussion, Ambassador Goonetilleke said: “I am satisfied that Intelsat is taking these unauthorised transmissions very seriously, and believe it would do all that it can to stop the terrorist transmissions. I am confident that Intelsat will continue to cooperate with Sri Lankan authorities in this matter.”

The issue was also taken up by Sri Lanka at a meeting of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation in Paris last month, Sri Lankan officials said.

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