Sri Lanka seeks foreign aid for captured province

July 16, 2007 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan government said Monday it would seek foreign aid to rebuild a key province recently wrested from the Tamil Tiger rebels after months of fighting. The rebels have admitted losing control of Thoppigala, formerly a key stronghold, but said they would revert to guerrilla tactics there. Donors would be asked to fund an ambitious reconstruction bid in the newly seized Eastern province, an area of some 9,635 square kilometres (3,720 square miles), said Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya.

“We appeal to donors and I have reason to believe that help will be forthcoming,” Jayasuriya told reporters in the tropical island’s capital, Colombo.

Troops said last week they had control of the Eastern province after winning a battle for Thoppigala jungle and driving away rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils.

“We are hoping to have an accelerated program of development that will be completed in six months,” Jayasuriya said, without specifying how much money the government would seek or its source.

Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, which dates back 35 years, had led to the neglect of roads, communications an