Pranab seeks assurance for Tamils' safety from SL Prez | world | Hindustan Times
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Pranab seeks assurance for Tamils' safety from SL Prez

EAM Pranab Mukherjee has sought an assurance from Sri Lanka that safety of civilians will be kept under consideration during the offensive against LTTE.

world Updated: Jan 28, 2009 14:12 IST

Concerned over the safety of over 1.50 lakh ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, India has asked Colombo to ensure their well-being.

New Delhi's apprehensions were conveyed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting with the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse in Colombo last night.

"We made it quite clear our concern about the civilian population which is around 1.50 lakh who are affected by this crossfire," Mukherjee told reporters here today adding that President Rajapakse agreed to expand the safe zone and also ensure that no firing or shelling will take place in this area.

Mukherjee said the Sri Lankan President also expressed concern over the situation and "appealed to all concerned to allow the civilians to come to the safe zone so that they get shelter, food and medical aid."

New Delhi also urged Colombo to allow international agencies like the UNHCR, ICRC and other organisations engaged in relief efforts to visit the areas and supplement the government agencies' relief efforts, he said.

The Sri Lankan President also invited an all-party delegation from Tamil Nadu, led by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa.

The invitation came in the backdrop of Tamil Nadu political parties' repeated demands to the government to ask Sri Lanka to end its military offensive against LTTE.

Rajapakse and Mukherjee also discussed "the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution which was effected after the 1987 Rajiv Gandhi-J R Jayawardene agreement to provide devolution and autonomy to Northern and Eastern provinces to ensure the legitimate aspirations of the ethnic minorities" of the island nation.

"The President assured me that this would be the area of his urgent attention and he will try to explore possibilities and improve the conditions there," Mukherjee said.

The talks between the two leaders came in the backdrop of a raging battle between Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE who were defending their last remaining strongholds in the northern areas.