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-- Leading News from Sri Lanka --

* Sir John Holmes meets Sri Lanka President
Saturday, February 21, 2009, 15:11 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 21, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured the visiting UN official today that the government will take all necessary measures to safeguard the civilians in Northern Sri Lanka who are forcibly detained by the LTTE to use as human shields.

Ministers Mahinda Samarasinghe, Rishad Badurdeen, President's Senior Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa, President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona were also present at the discussion.

During a discussion held with Sir John Holmes, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator this morning, President Rajapaksa said the security forces have already been instructed to carry out the operations with minimum harm to the civilians.

The UN envoy has expressed hope that the Sri Lankan government would ensure the welfare of the civilian displaced due to the conflict in the north. Speaking on last night's failed LTTE air attack over Sri Lanka capital Colombo, President pointed out the LTTE is ceaselessly attempting to attain their aims by using the civilians. Yesterday's air attack by the LTTE is the most recent example of this unfortunate situation, President said.

Accepting President Rajapaksa's views, UN Envoy expressed his deepest sympathy for the innocent people who were killed and injured due to the LTTE air attack.

The meeting followed the visit of UN envoy to the IDP camps at Vavuniya yesterday, to see first hand the facilities, provided to them and the arrangements made for the reception and care of the civilians by the government.

The UN official urged both sides to ensure the safety of the 100,000 people trapped in the battle areas.

President Rajapaksa assured Holmes that all communities in the island will be treated equally and the Tamil civilians would not be discriminated by his government. Sir John Holmes said the UN was donating a further US$ 10 million for the welfare of the IDPs, in addition to nearly US$ 145 million given recently. Holmes said he looks forward to a continuing dialogue between Sri Lanka and the UN on the matters affecting the IDPs.

Picture by Sudath Silva

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