Sri Lanka donors voice concern


Sri Lanka's main foreign donors voiced concern yesterday at the island's escalating civil war, calling on the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to respect human rights as the death toll steadily climbs.

Fifteen rebels and one soldier were killed on Saturday in the northwestern district of Mannar, where troops fired mortar bombs into Tiger territory, the military said, adding 59 rebels and two soldiers were killed across the north on Friday.

The military says it has killed over 200 insurgents since the government announced last week it was formally scrapping a 6-year ceasefire which degenerated into renewed war two years ago, and analysts and diplomats are bracing for more bloodshed.

Over 5,000 people have been killed since 2006 amid near daily air raids, land and sea battles, ambushes and bombings.

"The Tokyo Co-Chairs (Norway, Japan, United States and European Union) jointly express their strong concerns about the termination of the 2002 ceasefire agreement by the government of Sri Lanka," the donors said in a joint communique.

"The Co-Chairs emphasize their belief that there is no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka, and reiterate their support for a negotiated settlement."

The donors called on the foes to protect civilians, allow humanitarian agencies access to affected populations and urged "continued monitoring of the human rights situation by such means as to assure an appropriate role for the UN".

They also called on the government to allow them access to the Tigers in their northern stronghold and to finalise a long-delayed political devolution proposal -- which the rebels have already rejected as a non-starter.