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Lanka to send high-level delegation to India

T V Sriram in Colombo | October 18, 2008 00:48 IST

Seeking to address New Delhi's [Images] concerns over the worsening conflict in Sri Lanka [Images] and its impact on Tamil civilians, Colombo on Friday said it would send a high-level delegation to India to keep it abreast on the prevailing situation in the strife-torn island nation.
    
"President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed me to finalise the names of five Members of Parliament and two senior officials to visit India to apprise New Delhi of the latest situation," media minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told PTI.
    
The move came after India repeatedly expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka's rebel-dominated north, which saw displacement of thousands of civilians due to intensified fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government troops in recent weeks.
    
New Delhi on Friday summoned Lankan high commissioner to India C R Jayasinghe and told him that Colombo should address its concerns over the humanitarian situation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee have already asked Colombo to look for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic problem and protect the rights of civilians.
    
Denying any allegations of Tamil civilians being targeted, the Sri Lankan Minister said the government knew the difference between the Tamil civilians and the LTTE [Images] terrorists.
    
In a statement, Abeywardena said the government was making all efforts to avoid civilian casualties during its intensified operations against the LTTE in the north.

A senior Foreign Ministry official had earlier said that the government has put in a 'zero-civilian-casualty doctrine' in place in areas bordering the government-controlled and the LTTE-held areas.
    
He had said the civilian casualty had been minimal and the displaced persons were being provided relief on an emergency basis.
    
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Abeywardena said the Indian government has repeatedly stated that it wanted eradication of terrorism and that Sri Lanka maintained close coordination with New Delhi.
    
"The government will not be able to suspend the ongoing operations against the LTTE terrorists merely because of protests launched by the certain people in Tamil Nadu," he had said in apparent reference to parties like United Progressive Alliance ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhgham which continued to mount pressure on the government over the issue.
    
The issue has not in any way hampered the good relations enjoyed by the two nations, the minister said.
    
"This is a sensitive issue in Tamil Nadu and the political parties in Tamil Nadu have also raised their voice on the situation and pressurised the central government ahead of an election in India. Our government is not engaged in anything that would affect the stability of the Indian government," he said.
    
An estimated 2,30,000 Sri Lankan Tamil civilians have been displaced due to the latest fighting.

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