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RAJAPAKSA DISCUSSES SRILANKAN SITUATION WITH MANMOHAN SINGH

By Walter Jayawardhana

A spokesman for the President of Sri Lanka said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had a telephone discussion with the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh , October 18.

“Mahinda Rajapaksa had a telephone discussion today (18 October 2008) with Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, during which he briefed the Indian leader on the current situation in the North, where the security forces are engaged in an operation to disarm the LTTE and restore democracy, peace and stability to the region, said the statement issued by the spokesman, Lucien Rajakarunanayaka.

He said during the course of the conversation President Rajapaksa reiterated that the security forces are under strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties, during this operation. He also informed Dr. Singh that Sri Lanka is mindful and appreciative of the concerns of India regarding the situation in the North, and aware of the context in which these matters have been raised.

Consequent to this discussion, said the spokesman, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has invited the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date.

“Both leaders agreed to maintain a dialogue at a high political level, in keeping with the longstanding and excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka“ it further said..

Earlier other government sources said, to address New Delhi's concerns over the conflict in Sri Lanka and the concerns of Tamil Nadu politicians , Colombo would send a high-level delegation to India to keep it abreast on the prevailing situation in the island nation‘s Kilinochchi and Mulativu Districts.

Cabinet Minister Laxman Yapa Abeywardena denying any allegations of Tamil civilians being targeted, said the government knew the difference between the Tamil civilians and the LTTE terrorists.

In a statement, Abeywardena said the government was making all efforts to avoid civilian casualties during its intensified operations against the LTTE in the north.

A senior Foreign Ministry official had earlier said that the government has put in a "zero-civilian-casualty doctrine" in place in areas bordering the government-controlled and the LTTE-held areas.
Speaking to reporters , Abeywardena said the Indian government has repeatedly stated that it wanted eradication of terrorism and that Sri Lanka maintained close coordination with New Delhi.
"The government will not be able to suspend the ongoing operations against the LTTE terrorists merely because of protests launched by the certain people in Tamil Nadu," he had said reiterating the earlier statement of the Sri Lanka government.


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