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Thu, 24 July 2014 22:00:07
Sri Lanka seeks to avoid spat with India over military drive
17 Oct, 2008 17:28:22
October 17, 2008 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's government said Friday it would send a delegation to India to defuse mounting tensions over the escalating war against Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lanka's minority Tamils share close cultural and religious links with the 55 million Tamils in the nearby South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Colombo's military drive has prompted New Delhi to voice "grave concern" over the conflict.

"We are hoping to send a team of MPs to India to educate them on the latest situation," Media Minister Yapa Abeywardena said in a statement over national radio, signalling that Sri Lanka was attempting to defuse pressure from India.

He also insisted the government was trying to avoid civilian casualties in its all-out assault in the north of the island, where the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) maintain a mini-state.

"We know the difference between the Tamil civilians and the Tiger terrorists," he said, rejecting complaints from politicians in Tamil Nadu that Tamil civilians were being targeted.

The Sri Lankan conflict has emerged as a political issue in India, with MPs from Tamil Nadu threatening to resign -- a move that could destabilise the federal government -- unless New Delhi puts pressure on Colombo.

An estimated 230,000 Sri Lankan Tamil civilians have been displaced by the latest fighting.

Late on Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed "grave concern" over the humanitarian situation, and urged Colombo to find "a peacefully negotiated political settlement... within the framework of a united Sri Lanka."

New Delhi would "do all in its power to achieve this goal, to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions," he said, repeating the Indian view that the long-running dispute cannot be resolved by yet more fighting.

Sri Lanka's hawkish government, however, says peace will only come once the Tigers have been defeated.

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