Take UN into confidence on evacuation, India tells Sri Lanka (Lead)

April 22nd, 2009 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, April 22 (IANS) India Wednesday urged Sri Lanka to extend all facilities to the United Nations and countries seeking to help in the evacuation of civilians from the war zone in the island nation.
Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee also urged Sri Lanka to ensure that relief material India has sent to the country is distributed through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“So, we have requested the Sri Lankan authorities that whatever you say or do, you please take the international authorities into confidence, particularly the United Nations, so that they know there is no violation of human liberty and human rights,” Mukherjee said at a meet-the-press programme at the Kolkata Press Club.

The civil war in Sri Lanka is in its final stages with the security forces advancing on the last pocket held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Reiterating India’s stand that a period of cessation of hostilities be extended to allow civilians to reach safe areas, Mukherjee said: “The countries and the UN which want to help in evacuation of civilians should be allowed and given all facilities to do so.

“We have no sympathy for the terrorists. But we have every sympathy for the civilians. We want the evacuation of all civilians,” he said, reiterating India’s stand.

Mukherjee said following India’s appeal to move innocent civilians to secured zones, 58,600 civilians have managed to come out of the conflict zone in the three days to Tuesday morning.

“So your contention is not correct. But of course, it’s true that Sri Lankan authorities have not declared it,” Mukherjee said when asked what the Indian government proposed to do as Colombo was not paying heed to its calls to ensure safety for civilians.

The minister said the government was receiving contrary figures about the civilians still confined in the war zone.

“The Sri Lankan government is saying that there are still 10,000-15,000 civilians there. But United Nations observers are saying there are 30,000-40,000 civilians still trapped in the conflict zone.”

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