Lanka says nearing final standoff with Tigers
Colombo, March 27, 2009
Sri Lanka's military on Thursday said it has one kilometre left to go before trapping the Tamil Tigers separatists in a no-fire zone, along with thousands of civilians at grave risk in the 25-year war's final act.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, under pressure to craft a political deal, has called for a meeting with parliamentarians allied with the Tigers but they have refused until the government resolves the humanitarian crisis faced by civilians trapped in the fighting.
'Now the area is 21 sq km (8 sq miles) and only 1 sq km left other than the safe zone,' military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
The Tigers also tried a counterattack on Wednesday, which soldiers repelled. A total of 30 rebels were killed altogether on Wednesday, he said.
The Tigers could not be reached for comment.
The military-declared no-fire zone and the remaining kilometre outside of it are all that remain of 15,000 square km the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held less than three years ago and tried to turn into a separate nation for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.
The military has not revealed what it will do once it reaches the no-fire zone, but diplomats are urging it to besiege the Tigers instead of moving in to attack them, risking civilian lives in the process.
Lanka president Rajapaksa invited members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to talks this week. But the LTTE-allied TNA on Thursday told a press conference they would not talk with Rajapaksa until the civilian crisis was resolved.-Reuters