India asks Sri Lanka not to kill Tamil civilians (Lead)

February 8th, 2009 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Underlining its concerns for the thousands of Tamils caught up in Sri Lanka’s war, India Sunday urged Colombo to make a distinction between the Tamil Tigers and civilians.
Stressing that India had no sympathy for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stressed that the way forward must include credible devolution of powers, early return of democracy in the northeast and rehabilitation of the war zone.

“We have no sympathy for LTTE which is a terrorist organisation. It has been banned here, in Sri Lanka and many other parts of the world,” he told a Congress meeting attended by thousands including its president Sonia Gandhi.

Mukherjee also said that India had been demanding the extradition of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran every year for his role in the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Mukherjee underlined that India had asked Sri Lanka to ensure that Tamil civilians did not become victims in the fight between the security forces and the LTTE, which is now confined to Mullaitivu district.

The area still under Tamil Tiger control is also swarming with civilians numbering between 100,000 to 250,000. The Sri Lankan military has been accused of shelling the civilians, killing many.

“Please make a distinction between the LTTE and Tamil civilians. Don’t fire in the ’safe zones’,” Mukherjee said.

When his Danish counterpart Per Stig Moller telephoned him Saturday, Mukherjee stressed that New Delhi was “doing its best to ensure that the civilians are moved to safety”, the foreign ministry said Sunday.

The Danish minister called to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka and express concern at the plight of the civilian population in the island’s north.

Alluding to his visit to Colombo last month, Mukherjee told the Danish minister that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had announced a 48-hour period for civilians to leave the conflict zone.

Rajapksa had appealed to the LTTE to allow the civilians to leave, Mukherjee told Moller.

Mukherjee also spoke about India’s assistance of food, non-food and medical supplies for the many civilians, mainly Tamils, displaced within Sri Lanka because of the conflict.

Mukherjee referred to Sri Lanka’s assurance to provide relief supplies, respect and expand safe zones and prevent civilian casualties.

“The way forward must include credible devolution of powers, early return of democracy and rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas,” the ministry said.

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