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Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 15:00 UK

Sri Lanka clashes near key town

Sri Lankan soldiers
The army says it's on the verge of victory

At least 27 Tamil Tiger fighters have been killed near the key rebel base of Kilinochchi, the military says.

The army says it has been closing in on the town in recent weeks and is now within 1.6km (1 mile) of it.

It says at least three soldiers died in the latest fighting as rebel bunkers were captured. With no word from the rebels, the figures cannot be verified.

Meanwhile the UN says a food convoy for displaced people has been delayed amid security and safety concerns.

The convoy was due to have gone to rebel-held areas on Friday, but a UN spokesman said it did not leave because the government altered the route it was permitted to take.

The spokesman said it was now expected to depart on Thursday, once a road assessment had been completed.

The government says that a convoy of 20 government lorries providing food and shelter to thousands of displaced people in the rebel-held north departed as planned on Monday.

'Final stages'

The military's weekend offensive is part of the authorities' drive to capture all rebel-held areas by the end of the year.

Sri Lankan government food convoy
Government food convoys to rebel areas went ahead as scheduled

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who is in Australia, said the global economic turmoil would not hinder the government's capacity to fight the war, which he said was in the "final stages".

He said that the government was "quite confident" that its finances were sufficiently strong to carry on fighting.

Last week, the government said that it needed a 20% increase in defence spending for 2009 to a record 177bn rupees ($1.6bn).

The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for a quarter of a century and about 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.


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