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The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo
"The Sri Lankan army is facing a serious crisis"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
India rules out Sri Lanka help
Sri Lankan army tank
The Sri Lankan army is suffering defeat after defeat
The Indian Government has ruled out intervening in the civil war in Sri Lanka, where government forces are facing a sustained rebel offensive in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • India's External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, told journalists in Delhi that there had been no request for assistance from Sri Lanka and the situation had not arisen.

    However, he said that India would continue to monitor the evolving situation in Sri Lanka and would be prepared to provide humanitarian assistance, should it be required, particularly for the civilian population.

    Earlier, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgama appeared to confirm speculation that his government was on the point of asking Delhi for assistance.

    Sri Lankan foreign minister
    Sri Lanka's foreign minister: Indian help was being considered

    He said it was considering asking India to help rescue some 35,000 troops in the Jaffna peninsula.

    "It possibly could come, it could be on the cards," he said in an interview with Reuters news agency in Delhi.

    The Sri Lankan army has suffered a series of setbacks in the face of attacks by Tamil Tiger rebels, who are seeking to recapture control of Jaffna.

    War footing

    In another development, the Sri Lankan Government announced a decision to put the country on a war footing.

    State radio said the government had decided to "lead the country on a war footing to achieve victories by concentrating the energies of all".

    Sri Lankan president
    The president has held crisis talks with opposition leaders

    It said all non-essential development work would be suspended for three months to concentrate on the battle against the Tamil Tigers.

    In Colombo, President Chandrika Kumuratunga told a meeting of MPs from her party that there were no plans to evacuate Jaffna.

    She said her government had asked for help from unnamed friendly countries, but gave no further details.

    The Tigers are now only about 15 miles from Jaffna town, their former stronghold.

    Outside help

    Fighting was reported to be continuing on Wednesday, with the Tigers saying they controlled part of a key coastal road.

    The Tamil uprising began in Jaffna in 1983. From 1990-95, they ran a virtually independent state in the Jaffna peninsula, with their own police, civil administration, jails, visa system, courts and a small navy.

    Sri Lankan troops drove the rebels out of the city of 500,000 people in December 1995.

    In a surprise move, Buddhist monks under the National Sangha Council have demanded Indian intervention to prevent the fall of Jaffna to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.


    Buddhist monks
    Buddhist monks are calling for India to intervene
    The monks, very influential in the largely Buddhist country, protested when Indian troops were sent to the island nation in 1987 to disarm the rebels.

    But a few days ago, the monks met an Indian envoy and appealed for military help.

    Asian diplomats say it is difficult to imagine any country willing to get involved in Sri Lanka's conflict as India did between 1987 and 1990.

    "India burned its fingers by sending troops to Sri Lanka and it is unlikely they will want to repeat that mistake," a diplomat said.

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    See also:

    03 May 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lankan army on the ropes
    02 May 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lankan leader in crisis talks
    30 Apr 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka desperate for arms
    24 Apr 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka army ponders loss
    23 Apr 00 | South Asia
    Rebels take Sri Lanka army base
    21 Mar 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka takes step towards peace
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