Indian officials head to Colombo for talks on civilians

NEW DELHI, April 24, 2009 (AFP) – Senior Indian officials were due to fly to Colombo Friday to press the Sri Lankan government to protect tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the war, the foreign ministry said.

“The only lasting solution will come from political efforts to address the real concerns of the Tamil people, giving them lives of dignity within the Sri Lankan mainstream,” the foreign minister said.

As international concern mounted for the safety of the trapped civilians, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had ordered a humanitarian team to northern Sri Lanka. India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan would discuss the severity of the humanitarian crisis facing up to 50,000 people hemmed into the island’s northeastern coastal area, it said late Thursday.

“They will convey India’s concerns over the rising humanitarian crisis,” a foreign ministry official who did not want to be named told AFP.

The United Nations says 95,000 civilians have fled Sri Lanka’s war-torn region, but thousands remain trapped between government forces and the cornered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherj

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