Lankan FM invites Mukherjee to visit Colombo

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Colombo, Oct 18 (UNI) Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama today extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee ''to undertake a visit to the island nation at an early date''.

This happened hours after President Rajapaksa briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on phone about the current situation in the island's north.

According to a statement from the Foreign Ministry, Mr Rajapaksa has told the Indian Premier that the Sri Lankan ''security forces are engaged in an operation to disarm the LTTE and restore democracy, peace and stability to the region.'' ''Mr Rajapaksa reiterated that the security forces are under strict instructions to avoid causing any civilian casualties, during this operation. He also informed Dr Singh that Sri Lanka is mindful and appreciative of the concerns of India regarding the situation in the North, and aware of the context in which these matters have been raised,'' the statement said.

It said both the leaders have agreed to maintain a dialogue at a high political level, in keeping with the longstanding and excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka.

In the wake of the two-week ultimatum by 40 MPs in Tamil Nadu, India's Foreign Minister on Thursday, in a statement, said India was ''particularly worried about the humanitarian effect of the continuing conflict on civilians who have been caught up in circumstances not of their making.'' ''It is essential that their rights be respected, that they be immune from attacks, and that food and other essential supplies be allowed to reach them,'' Mukherjee said in the statement on Thursday, cautioning that the Indian government would ''do all in its power to achieve this goal and to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions in Sri Lanka." UNI XC GL RAI2343

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