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UN says will restart Sri Lanka food aid

The UN says that it would send food to those displaced by fighting in Sri Lanka's rebel-held north, two weeks after aid workers were ordered out of the region.

world Updated: Sep 28, 2008 15:06 IST

The United Nations said on Sunday it would send food to those displaced by fighting in Sri Lanka's rebel-held north, two weeks after aid workers were ordered out of the region.

Mohamed Saleheen, head of the UN's World Food Programme in Sri Lanka, said 60 trucks would enter the Tamil Tiger-controlled Wanni district to deliver badly needed supplies to civilians.

"The convoys will travel early next week. The government has agreed to allow our international staff to go along to witness distribution," Saleheen told AFP.

"Hopefully, this is the beginning of many such trips."

UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said the trucks would show that the world body had not deserted those caught up in the escalating civil war.

Sri Lanka's defence ministry earlier this month ordered UN and international aid agencies out of the area, as battles between troops and Tiger rebels intensified.

The United Nations estimates that 230,000 people have been displaced in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu in the recent wave of fighting.

The government agreed to relax its stand after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concern about civilians during talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse in New York last week.

Sri Lankan forces are moving to dismantle the northern stronghold of the rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), after forcing them from the east of the island in July 2007.

Tens of thousands have died on both sides since the LTTE launched an armed struggle in 1972 to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east.