Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:34 UK

Sri Lanka rejects West 'lectures'

Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa: It is my duty to protect the people

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa has again ruled out a ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels and says the West should not lecture him about it.

He was speaking a day after visiting UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner had called for a truce.

Mr Rajapaksa said the rebels still had "a little time left" to surrender.

He said foreign envoys should not preach about civilian welfare or believe "the propaganda of terrorists".

The Sri Lankan military has restricted Tamil Tiger rebels to a 10 sq km (6 sq miles) area of land in the north and believes it is close to defeating them.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped in the area or are in government-run camps for displaced people.

'Winning the peace'

Mr Rajapaksa said: "We have no plans to go for a ceasefire with the Tigers, but they have a little time left to drop their weapons and surrender even though our military operation is at a final stage."

Mr Rajapaksa said foreign envoys were "trying to preach to us about civilians".

"We have seen how Afghanistan is bombed. Those who come to preach to us [have] seen how Afghanistan is bombed. It must be made clear that before accusing others, you must have the strength to know what you do yourself," he said.

David Miliband shakes hands with President Rajapaksa watched by Bernard Kouchner
The French and UK envoys had called for a truce

"It is my duty to protect the people of this country. I don't need lectures from Western representatives."

The UN and EU have persistently called for a ceasefire and expressed concern at civilian deaths.

The Sri Lankan government this week said it had stopped using heavy weapons in the conflict zone but the Tamil Tigers say artillery and air attacks are continuing.

Mr Rajapaksa said: "If I say we don't use heavy weapons, that means we don't. But these foreign envoys are prepared to believe the propaganda of a terrorist organisation."

The pro-rebel TamilNet website said the UK and French mission had "failed" and the Tigers were expecting "the worst phase of massacre any time soon".

A Tamil Tiger representative, Puleedevan, saying he was speaking from the war zone, told the BBC's Charles Haviland that the rebels would not surrender until they had - as he put it - safeguarded the "legitimate rights" of Tamils, rights which, he said, were all denied to them.

On Wednesday, Mr Miliband said: "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."

He repeated his call for a truce when speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, saying the Sri Lankan government should "give unhindered access to the UN and other aid agencies to provide much needed relief to tens of thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting".

The Tamil Tigers have fought for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority since 1983.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the war, but that figure could now be far higher.

Sri Lanka map

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