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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK

World: South Asia

Sri Lanka raps UN comment

Lakshman Kadirgamar criticised the UN for 'expanding' its mandate

By Susannah Price in Colombo

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has criticised the United Nations for condemning the killing of civilians by both sides in the continuing war.

Mr Kadirgamar was quoted by the state-run Daily News as saying the UN should be concerned with malaria and mosquitos and should not try to expand its mandate.

The UN said in a statement that it was deeply concerned by the extensive civilian casualties in two separate incidents.


Mr Kadirgamar is apparently upset that the UN commented on both the killing of 22 Tamil civilians in an air raid and the subsequent massacre of more than 50 Sinhalese villagers by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels.

[ image: 50 civilians were killed by suspected Tiger rebels]
50 civilians were killed by suspected Tiger rebels
Mr Kadirgamar told the Daily News he would not tolerate UN officials commenting on domestic issues.

Mr Kadirgamar, who is in New York attending the UN General Assembly meetings, said if he had been in Colombo he would have given the organisation a dressing down.

He said that apart from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN agency's mandate only allowed them to be involved in the social and economic development.

'Selective approach'

He also criticised the International Committee of the Red Cross for its statement on what it called the alarming increase in the number of civilian casualties.

Both the UN and ICRC, along with several other organisations, issued statements condemning the deaths of 22 civilians in an air raid over Mullaitivu district in the Tamil Tiger-held north, as well as the killing of more than 50 villagers who were hacked to death by suspected Tigers a few days later.

The Daily News said that civilian deaths in the airforce attack were an accident but the killing of the villagers were not.

However the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry has said that those killed in the air raid were all Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan Government appears to have a selective approach to UN statements. It welcomed the visit and comments by a UN rapporteur on children last year which criticised the Tigers for using child soldiers.

There has been no comment from ICRC or the UN on Mr Kadirgamar's views.

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