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Sri Lankan gov't says no need for ceasefire with rebels
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08:41, February 19, 2009

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The Sri Lankan government said Wednesday that government troops are nearing the end of a successful military campaign against Tamil Tiger rebels and there would be no need for a ceasefire at this stage.

Keheliya Rambukella, the minister of Foreign Employment and the government defense spokesman made this remarks to reporters reacting to the statements made by R. Sampanthan, a legislator of the main Tamil minority party Tamil National Alliance.

Sampathan said Tamil civilians have been trapped in the battle zone of Mullaittivu in the north and they have been caught in the crossfire.

Sampathan stressed that a ceasefire must be observed by the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the safety of the civilians.

Rambukwella said the government has always cared for the civilians' safety and made all arrangements to welcome them into government areas.

"Mr. R. Sampanthan's allegation that the government has shirked its responsibility and shifted the blame on the LTTE is a distortion of facts which mislead the international community," the defense spokesman said.

"The statement is irresponsible and unfounded and so is detrimental to a sovereign nation," Rambukwella added.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said 35,756 civilians have entered the government controlled area since the beginning of this year and all these civilians are looked after well.

Nanayakkara added that 1,611 sick refugees have been rescued by the security forces with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross and have been transferred to Vavuniya and Trincomalee hospitals.

Aid agencies estimate that about 200,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict area, but the government says the figure is not more than 100,000.

The military say the LTTE has been cornered in an area less than 100 sq km and only about 700 fighters remain within its ranks.

The LTTE launched their separatist campaign in the mid-1980s to set up a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east, resulting in the killing of more than 70,000 people.


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