UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband: 'There is a humanitarian crisis'
British and French foreign ministers in Sri Lanka have urged the government to halt its military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the call was not aimed at saving the Tamil rebel leader but the lives of thousands of civilians trapped.
Correspondents say the government is unlikely to agree to a truce.
It has previously rejected similar calls and its relations with European countries have been tense.
The Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, had been due to accompany his European colleagues on the visit, but was refused entry by the Sri Lankan government.
The European Union has strongly criticised the refusal.
'Winning the peace'
"No-one in the international community has been calling for a ceasefire or to stop firing to save [Tiger leader Vellupillai] Prabhakaran. The calls have come because of the overwhelming concern with the wellbeing of the civilians," Mr Miliband said.
The BBC visited a camp in Vavuniya accompanied by goverment forces
"Now is the time for the fighting to stop. Sri Lanka's military advances have been spectacular, but winning the peace is as vital as winning the war."
His sentiments were echoed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said that civilians in the north were "hostages of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)".
Mr Kouchner said that he and Mr Miliband had "insisted and insisted" on a ceasefire, but so far their request had not been met with a positive response from the government.
The two ministers are on a one-day trip to Sri Lanka and have met top officials - including President Rajapaksa - in addition to visiting a camp for 60,000 displaced people in the north.
The BBC's Charles Haviland accompanied the ministers who talked to as many refugees as they could.
Our correspondent says that Mr Miliband met one family who had been displaced 10 times and another man who said that the Tamil Tigers had tried to stop them leaving the conflict zone by shooting at them.
Two women also told the British foreign minister that the authorities running the camp had split their husband and son from them in a screening process but given them no information on where they were.
Others complained that conditions in the camp were very basic and sanitation poor.
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