Narayanan, Menon urge Lanka President to work for truce

April 24th, 2009 - 8:01 pm ICT by ANI  

Colombo, Apr.24 (ANI): National Security Adviser M.K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon called Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday and reportedly urged him and his government to work towards declaring a truce in the closing chapter of a 25-year war in which nearly 6,500 civilians have lost their lives since February 2009.

The meeting between Rajapaksa and the Indian envoys took place even as the international community continues to demand that Sri Lanka stop its offensive and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) surrender to avert rising civilian casualties.

India’s move is seen as a swift reversal by its Congress party-led ruling coalition, which backs efforts to wipe out a group India lists as a terrorist organisation, but faces election pressure in Tamil Nadu to protect Tamil civilians.

A U.N. working document says 6,432 civilians have been killed and 13,946 have been wounded in fighting since the end of January. Two diplomats verified its authenticity. A U.N. spokesman declined to comment.

Both sides accuse the other of firing on civilians. With access to the war zone limited to most outsiders and nearly all sources inside lacking full independence, getting clear data is difficult.

Sri Lanka is reluctant to allow outsiders in, with the memory of India intervening when it had the Tigers on the ropes in 1986 still fresh.

Colombo has also rejected a plan by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday (April 23) to send a humanitarian team to assess the condition of people trapped by the fighting.

According to the BBC, the Sri Lankan army has said there will be no more breaks in fighting against the LTTE in the north of the country, as it closes in on the rebels.

It quoted Army Spokesman Brigadier Shavendra Silva as saying that the only way civilians could leave the area was if the army rescued them, as the rebels would not let any more out.

He also confirmed that Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in the conflict zone.

According to the UN,50,000 are trapped in the area. The government says 100,000 people have fled since Monday’s military push. An estimated 60,000 people had already fled in recent months. (ANI)

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