Sri Lanka rejects British special envoy

February 12, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka on Thursday rejected Britain’s appointment of a special envoy to the island, accusing London of interfering in its internal affairs as security forces battled to defeat Tamil Tiger rebels.

The diplomatic row between Colombo and London blew up amid mounting international concerns for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone in northern Sri Lanka, with the Red Cross saying hundreds have died.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka set up a new safe zone for non-combatants along a 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) stretch of coastline, the defence ministry said — effectively scrapping a smaller designated no-fire area.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama vented his fury after London said it had appointed former British defence minister Des Browne as a special envoy to focus on the humanitarian situation, saying he would not be accepted here.

“It is tantamount to an intrusion into Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and is disrespectful to the country’s statehood,” the minister told AFP, warning “there could be major repercussions” for relations with Britain.

He dubbed London’s move “extremely unhelpful” but did not specify if any measures would be taken by Sri Lanka, a forme