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Civilians, not Tigers, our concern, says India
Pranab meets Rajapakse
Tribune News Service & PTI

Colombo/New Delhi, January 27
As India’s fears mounted for Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone in Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tonight held urgent talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse. Mukherjee, who rushed to Colombo, met Rajapakse immediately after his arrival tonight as the LTTE fighters struggled to defend their last remaining strongholds.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed deep concern over the safety and well-being of civilians caught in intensified fighting.

The meeting took place at a time when the military claimed to have captured Mullaithivu, the last bastion of LTTE, and that its offensive was 95 per cent complete. Mukherjee said, “We are for fight against terrorists and all sorts of terrorism. Therefore, we have no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, particularly LTTE (which) is a banned organisation in India.”

The visit had been pending for quite sometime but the increasing casualties among civilians in the military operation and the pressure from the DMK, an ally of the UPA government, appear to have compelled Mukherjee to rush to the island nation.

Ahead of his visit, Mukherjee said India would not tolerate the Tamil Tigers but was concerned about the (Tamil) civilians who have unwittingly become victims of the war between the rebels and the Sri Lankan forces.

“We are for fight against terrorists and all sorts of terrorism. Therefore, we have no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, particularly the LTTE, which is a banned organisation in India,” he emphasised. He, however, hastened to add: "We shall have to see how civilians can be protected and they do not become hapless victims of the situation."

India has all along maintained that while it cared for the welfare of the Sri Lankan Tamils, it was also committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

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