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UPDATED: 08:48, November 21, 2006
Sri Lanka gov't says high defense spending necessary
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The high defense allocation for 2007 in the government budget presented last week was necessary in order to ensure national security, a top Sri Lanka Finance Ministry official said Monday.

P. B. Jayasundera, the secretary to the Finance Ministry, told a seminar here that the government did not want to compromise national security.

"There are law and order issues, drug trafficking, money laundering issues and crime," Jayasundera stressed.

In the budget presented last Thursday by President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is also the country's finance minister, the defense spending will rise to 139.56 billion rupees (about 1.29 billion U. S. dollars) from 108.67 billion rupees (about 1 billion dollars) in 2006.

Analysts say the high defense expenditure is necessitated by the escalating military conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

The government early this month said that over 3000 people had been killed in the conflict between December 2005 and late October 2006.

The Tiger rebels and the government troops have been engaged in open confrontations for the first time since the Norwegian backed peace process began in February 2002.

Both sides accuse the other for the violence and say they act in self defense. Appeals by the international community to revive the peace process have been of no avail.

Source: Xinhua

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