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EU against Sri Lankan ‘final assault’ on Tamil rebels

[AFP, Friday, 15 May 2009 15:00 No Comment]

EU foreign ministers will urge the Sri Lankan government to hold back from a "final assault" against Tamil Tiger rebels, according to a draft text which expressed new concern at the civilian death toll.

"The EU calls on the government of Sri Lanka to refrain from a final assault which will result in further loss of life and to take, without delay, all necessary steps to facilitate the evacuation of the civilians trapped in the conflict zone," according to a draft statement drawn up ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday.

"The EU underscores that fighting terrorism must be done in full respect for the rule of law and human rights," the statement, seen by AFP, stresses.

Whether they get the chance to issue the call remained unsure Friday as the Sri Lankan government vowed earlier Friday to capture within 48 hours all Tamil Tiger-held territory.

"The fighting must stop now," the EU draft statement said.

"The EU is appalled by continuing reports of high numbers of civilian casualties, including children, following recent intense fighting in northern Sri Lanka, which the UN has described as ‘a bloodbath’," according to the draft statement.

In the statement, ministers from the 27 EU nations reiterate the need for all to respect human rights laws.

"The EU calls for the alleged violations of these laws to be investigated through the establishment of an independent inquiry," adds the draft statement.

However one European diplomat cautioned that this part of the statement could be changed when EU ambassadors meet Monday ahead of the ministers’ talks.

The ministers acknowledge some of the problems which the Sri Lankan government forces argue that they are facing in attempting to quash the LTTE rebels.

"The EU condemns the LTTE, a terrorist organisation, in particular for the use of civilians as human shields and the forced recruitment of civilians," the draft text says, calling on Tamil rebels to lay down their arms and allow the tens of thousands of civilians in the conflict zone to move to safety.

Hundreds have been reported killed in indiscriminate shelling over the past week, adding to the thousands left dead since the rebels were pushed into a corner at the start of the year.

[Full Coverage]

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