Sri Lanka ticks off UNICEF envoy

Dec 17, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka Monday summoned the head of UNICEF operations here and expressed Colombo’s “concern” over his visit to rebel-held territory in the island’s north, the foreign ministry said. The government insists it is working on a political package aimed at addressing the demands of ethnic Tamils, but at the same time says it wants to totally “eliminate” the LTTE and seize their mini-state in the north. Philippe Duamelle of the United Nations Children’s Fund was told that his visit to the Tiger guerrilla political capital of Kilinochchi was unacceptable to the government, the ministry said.

“Mr. Philippe Duamelle… was called in to the ministry of Foreign Affairs today to express concern over his recent visit to Kilinochchi and his meeting with LTTE (Tamil Tiger) leaders,” the statement said.

It quoted Duamelle as saying that he was new in the job and was unaware of foreign ministry guidelines, but had cleared his visit with the defence ministry. There was no immediate comment from UNICEF.

Sri Lanka does not allow journalists free access to rebel-held areas of the island’s north and is also opposed to top-level diplomats holding talks with the leadership of the Liberation Tig