Sri Lanka vows to continue military offensive

April 25th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Colombo, April 25 (IANS) Sri Lanka has vowed not to bow to any pressure to stop the military offensive against the Tamil Tigers until all civilians escape the now shrunken rebel territory, it was reported Saturday.
“The government is not giving into various pressures exerted on it to stop the humanitarian operation or declare a ceasefire and it will go on till the last civilian is freed from LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) clutches,” Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said in remarks published in the state-run Daily News.

Rajapaksa, a younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, did not say who had been exerting pressure on Sri Lanka.

Asked if the two envoys of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who met the president Friday called for a ceasefire, the defence secretary said there was no such call and India did not put any pressure on Sri Lanka.

India’s National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon met the president and his confidants for about 90 minutes.

After returning to New Delhi, Narayanan said that President Rajapaksa was “receptive” to India’s concerns, especially over the civilian suffering caused by the fighting in the north and the exodus of Tamils from the war zone.

Describing the discussions with the Indian delegation as “yet another instance of high-level cordial discussions between the two countries on matters of mutual interest”, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said the visit characterised the bilateral relations since President Rajapaksa assumed office in November 2005.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said there was “no humanitarian catastrophe or humanitarian crisis” in Sri Lanka and that over 106,000 Tamil civilians had entered government-controlled areas on their own since Monday.

According to the latest military statistics, about 2,600 civilians fled the small chunk of territory the LTTE still hold in the coastal district of Mullaitivu Friday, taking the total number of civilian escapees since Monday to 109,320.

The fresh group civilians fleeing the war zone included three Parish priests and 14 nuns. The military said these people had been detained by the “Tiger terrorists”.

“These religious dignitaries have trudged across the terrain for several hours after they secretly vacated LTTE areas,” the military said.

The UN office here meanwhile said that its top humanitarian official would fly in Saturday to see first hand the civilians affected by fighting in the north and to meet government leaders.

It said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes will visit Sri Lanka for two days.

He hoped to visit camps where civilians who have fled the fighting have been put up, the UN said.

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