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Carl Bildt baffled by Sri Lanka snub

Sri Lanka barred Sweden's foreign minister Tuesday from entering the island on a humanitarian mission, as diplomatic tensions mounted over the conduct of the war on the Tamil Tigers.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt had been due to travel to the war-torn country this week to press demands for aid workers to be given full access to civilians trapped by heavy fighting between government troops and the rebels.

But a Sri Lankan foreign ministry official indicated that Colombo felt it had already done enough by allowing Britain and France's top diplomats -- David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner -- to visit Wednesday.

"The Swedish minister also wanted to jump on that bandwagon and we said no," the official said.

"Some think they can land up at our airport and expect a red carpet treatment. We are not a colony and neither a bankrupt Third World country. Our main donors are in Asia, not in Europe," the official added.

Bildt said he had been denied a visa and described the snub as "exceedingly strange behaviour." He was recalling the top Swedish diplomat to Colombo.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said Sri Lanka's government had made a "grave mistake" that will "have repercussions in Europe and will influence the further relations between the Sri Lankan government and the European states."

Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said Bildt had not made a formal application for a visa and his plan to visit the island had not been discussed when the joint visits of French and British ministers were considered.

"It needs to be understood that in this instance there had been no formal prior consultations with the government of Sri Lanka with regard to the visit of the Swedish Foreign Minister," the foreign ministry statement said.



Last Updated (Monday, 18 May 2009 08:54)

 

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