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S.Lanka battle on as international concern mounts

Sri Lanka stepped up a drive to dislodge Tamil rebels from a narrow patch of land on Friday amid fresh international calls for a truce to save thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone.

Security forces were engaged in heavy fighting and poised to overrun another Tamil Tigers defence line near Puthukkudiriruppu in northeastern Mullaittivu district, the defence ministry said.

"Military operations are in progress at north of Puthukkudiriruppu as troops are steadily approaching the fourth earth-bund built by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorists," the ministry said in a statement.

It said troops had killed an estimated 29 Tiger rebels and recovered the bodies of 13 of them.

The statement came as the United Nations, backed by Britain and the United States, pressed for a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting and blamed Tamil rebels for the plight of tens of thousands of trapped civilians.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters in New York after an informal UN Security Council briefing that his main concern was "the civilian population trapped in the combat area and not being allowed out by the LTTE."

He added that he was pressing for urgent humanitarian access to the combat area in Sri Lanka.

"We suggested the idea of some kind of humanitarian pause to allow that to happen and to allow the civilian population to leave," he said.

"This is an extremely worrying situation and therefore, our first appeal is to the LTTE to let the civilians out in a safe and orderly fashion."

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said that more than 2,800 civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka since late January and said both sides in the conflict could be guilty of war crimes.

Copyright 2009 AFP South Asian Edition
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP South Asian Edition
Date:Mar 27, 2009
Words:289
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