British, French FMs say Tamil Tigers using ‘human shields’

LONDON, April 15, 2009 (AFP) – The British and French foreign ministers said Wednesday that Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka are using civilians as human shields, which was preventing them from leaving the conflict zone.

Miliband and Kouchner urged both sides to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and to do everything they could to protect civilians, including allowing “unimpeded access” to humanitarian agencies.

“France and Britain, as two members of the Security Council, continue to support the active engagement by the UN and by other members of the international community on this urgent issue,” they said.

In a joint statement issued in London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner urged the Sri Lankan government to declare a new ceasefire to allow aid in and civilians out.

Sri Lankan security forces resumed their offensive against the Tigers on Wednesday after a 48-hour ceasefire, but Miliband and Kouchner said that had not been long enough for civilians to have moved to safety.

“We are deeply concerned that there was no large scale movement of civilians away from the conflict area to safety as we had hoped to see, in the