Friday, April 24, 2009

Sri Lanka rejects UN humanitarian mission: Report

COLOMBO, April 23, 2009 (AFP) - Sri Lanka has rejected a United Nations call for an immediate humanitarian mission to the island's northeast where thousands of civilians are trapped in a war zone, the BBC reported Thursday.

The BBC quoted Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse saying that it was not sensible to send a mission as called for by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Rajapakse said "it would not be sensible to let aid agencies into the conflict zone because there was already an army operation in progress to rescue civilians."

Ban had said in Brussels that he intended to immediately despatch a UN humanitarian team to the "no-fire zone" in the northeast of the island where government troops are locked in combat with the last remaining Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The purpose of this humanitarian team will be to first of all monitor the situation and support the humanitarian assistance and try to do whatever we can to protect the civilian population," the UN chief said.

"It is critical that this team be allowed into the no-fire zone as soon as possible, and I'm asking for the strong support and speedy assistance of the Sri Lankan government."

According to the Sri Lankan military, Tamil Tiger rebels were encircled Thursday in a tiny strip of land by government troops but were still putting up stiff resistance despite calls to surrender.

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