Britain deplores stoning of Sri Lanka aid offices

LONDON, February 6, 2009 (AFP) – The British government said it deplored Friday’s stoning of the Red Cross offices in Colombo, saying the ICRC was a neutral body carrying out vital work to protect Sri Lankan civilians.

“The British government has recently allocated a further 2.5 million pounds (3.7 million dollars, 2.9 million euros) to help organisations like ICRC protect and deliver vital humanitarian assistance to civilians caught in the conflict.”

A stone-throwing mob attacked the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sri Lanka’s capital as Colombo accused the agency of inciting panic over civilian deaths from fighting with Tiger rebels.

“I deplore the attack by a mob of demonstrators on the ICRC office in central Colombo today and acknowledge the government of Sri Lanka’s swift response in dispersing the demonstrators,” said Britain’s International Development Minister Mike Foster.

“It is imperative that the ICRC, internationally recognised as a neutral organisation, be allowed to continue unhindered in its vital work protecting civilians in the conflict zone.