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Sweden, Britain and France will visit Sri Lanka

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Sweden will visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said after Colombo rejected a ceasefire declared by Tamil Tiger rebels.

"I will be visiting Sri Lanka on Wednesday, 29 April, together with my French and Swedish counterparts," Miliband said in a statement on Sunday.

"My priority will be to address the humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and the continuing grave risk to civilians in the conflict zone."

He welcomed the ongoing visit to Sri Lanka by UN humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes, and called on the Colombo government to reinstate an earlier ceasefire to allow civilians to move to safety.

"We reiterate and maintain our call for a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons," Miliband said, adding: "The safety of civilians is of paramount importance."

He urged the government to allow civilian oversight of all internally displaced people (IDP)as soon as they left the conflict zone; to improve conditions and access to medical facilities in IDP camps; to allow international monitoring; and to allow free movement in and out of the camps.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier Sunday to express his concern "about the plight of civilians in the conflict zone," a statement from Brown's Downing Street office said.

"He repeated his call for a ceasefire, and pledged a further 2.5 million pounds (2.7 million euros, 3.6 million dollars) for humanitarian aid for displaced persons," it said.

Sri Lanka says it is on the verge of defeating Tamil rebels who are fighting to create an independent homeland in the north of the island nation, and who stand accused of holding thousands of civilians hostage.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said its ceasefire was "in the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis" and in response to international appeals.

The British government said last week that junior international development minister Mike Foster will be visiting Sri Lanka on Monday.

Last Updated (Saturday, 16 May 2009 20:08)


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