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Miliband: 'Grave concern' over Sri Lanka

Source ITN

Updated on 19 April 2009

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he is "gravely concerned" about the situation in Sri Lanka.

Mr Miliband said the Prime Minister's Special Representative, Des Browne MP, is on his way to New York to consult with the UN. He also repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire.

But the call has been rejected by the Sri Lankan government which said a ceasefire would give Tamil Tiger rebels time to regroup.

The rebels have retreated into a slice of land which was declared a haven for civilians fleeing the fighting from a 25-year civil war. It is hoped a ceasefire will allow more than 100,000 people trapped in the area to reach safety.

One health official said at least 28 civilians were killed in two days of fighting as Sri Lankan troops tried to push into the zone.

Mr Miliband's statement said: "Protests and demonstrations around the world have highlighted the tragic loss of life of innocent civilians in Sri Lanka. Further loss of life will only compound that tragedy."

He added: "The Tamil community are a community we value and they make an important contribution to British society. They have seen friends and relatives perish, and their loved ones are still at grave risk from the fighting.

"We have heard their voice and will keep listening. We are committed to do all we can to bring this terrible conflict to an end."

A hundred thousand protesters marched through central London earlier this month to draw attention to the Sri Lankan government's offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels and alleged human rights abuses.

© Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

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