Sri Lanka conscious of ‘collateral’ damage in offensive: FM

UNITED NATIONS, September 25, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka government troops are wary of any “collateral” damage as they move closer to dismantling the Tamil Tigers’ de facto state, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told AFP at the UN Thursday.

“We are trying to defeat terrorism and to that extent, whatever engagement is confined,” said Bogollagama, speaking at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“That’s why we are very conscious of the collateral and the humanitarian aspect,” Bogollagama said. “And we are confident that we will succeed in defeating terrorism.”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels have been fighting for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority since 1972. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict.

Aid organizations say recent fighting has forced around 230,000 people from their homes.

In the latest offensive, government forces have advanced to the outskirts of the northern rebel capital Kilinochchi, the army chief said Thursday.

The government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in January, wants to capture the capital to deal a major military and psychological blow to the Tamils.

US, European Union, Japanese and Norwegian envoys met in New York Wed