Sri Lanka slams UN chief

September 11, 2008 (AFP) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came in for tough criticism Thursday from Sri Lanka’s government, which accused him of unwittingly helping Tamil Tiger rebels.

Responding to the UN chief’s concern over civilians displaced by heavy fighting in the north of the island, a Sri Lankan government rights official said a government offensive had caused hardly any civilian casualties.

Ban had on Tuesday reminded the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of their obligations to ensure the safety of civilians.

“Unfortunately, the secretary general may not have realised that his remarks could be used to advantage by the LTTE, who will use any weapon to hand, including an innocent secretary general, to halt the advance of Sri Lankan forces,” Sri Lankan human rights ministry official Rajiva Wijesinghe said.

He said in a statement that the LTTE “will relish that he made these remarks.”

Sri Lanka regularly views any criticism of its own rights record as support for the LTTE, which has been fighting for autonomy in the island’s north and east for minority Tamils since 1972.

Fighting is now centered in the north, afte