May 15, 2009 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan government vowed Friday to finish off the Tamil Tigers within 48 hours, defying international calls for a truce and warnings of a “humanitarian catastrophe” inside the rebel-held zone. The signal that a final offensive against the beleaguered separatist guerrillas was imminent came as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff was rushing to the island in a fresh effort to stop the carnage.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only neutral organisation working in the conflict area, said its staff were “witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe.”
Former colonial power Britain said it wanted an investigation into alleged war crimes, while the United States announced it was blocking a two billion dollar International Monetary Fund bailout package for Sri Lanka.
Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians are believed to be trapped inside a tiny patch of jungle still held by the rebels. Hundreds have been reported killed in indiscriminate shelling over the past week.
But Sri Lankan government spokesman Anusha Palpita said the war would be over by Sunday morning.
“The president (Mahinda Rajapakse) assured that within