Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Sunday, 19 April 2009 10:30 UK

UK envoy in Sri Lanka peace talks

Des Browne
The MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun is a former defence minister

Gordon Brown has sent a special envoy to the United Nations in New York for "urgent" talks on the war in Sri Lanka.

Special Representative, MP Des Browne, will try to secure a ceasefire between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the north.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was "gravely concerned" that 100,000 civilians remained trapped in the area.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Tamils demonstrated outside Parliament in London calling for Britain's help.

'Disrespectful intrusion'

At least 28 civilians have been killed in the last two days of fighting, health officials in Sri Lanka estimate.

However, the United Nations puts the figure at 2,800 dead and 7,000 injured in the past two months.

Mr Miliband said: "The British government maintains its calls for an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and for civilians to be allowed to leave the conflict area.


We are committed to do all we can to bring this terrible conflict to an end

David Miliband

"We have been joined by many other governments, including France and the United States, in making similar calls."

"The Tamil community are a community we value and they make an important contribution to British society. They have seen friends and relatives perish and their loved ones are still at grave risk from the fighting.

"We have heard their voice and will keep listening. We are committed to do all we can to bring this terrible conflict to an end."

The Sri Lankan government has rejected calls for a ceasefire, arguing it would give Tamil Tiger rebels time to regroup.

The Tigers - or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - are fighting for a separatist state in the north and east of the island.

They are a proscribed terrorist group in many countries, including the UK.

The rebels have recently pushed into an area declared a safety zone for civilians fleeing the fighting.

The rebels deny they are holding civilians as hostages, saying people do not want to leave the zone because they fear the military.

Earlier this month, 100,000 protesters marched through central London to draw attention to alleged human rights abuses from the 25-year conflict which has claimed 70,000 lives.

Sri Lanka recently rejected Mr Browne's appointment as a special envoy, saying it was a "disrespectful intrusion".

The MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun is a former defence minister.



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