The United Nations has registered its "strongest possible" protest with the LTTE for refusing to allow the world body's staff who were travelling with a UN aid convoy to return from Sri Lanka's northern Vanni area.
"The staff are part of a UN convoy which travelled to the Vanni on January 16, for delivering food and emergency supplies to displaced population," a statement issued by the Office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombo said.
Due to fighting between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army, the convoy has only been able to move safely on Thursday. "The UN calls on the LTTE to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependents to freely move from this area," the statement said.
The LTTE's denial of safe passage is a clear abrogation of their obligations under international humanitarian law, it added.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that around 230,000 people have been displaced due to intensified fighting in the north of the country during the second half of 2008.
The convoy in question is the 11th to take supplies to those trapped in the midst of fighting in the Vanni. Since early October UN convoys have brought approximately 7,000 tons of vital food and relief supplies to the displaced people.