Pranab likely to visit Sri Lanka, Colombo to send envoy

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to visit Sri Lanka for discussions with Sri Lankan leaders on the situation there and developments concerning the Tamil population as a result of Colombo's military offensive against the LTTE, official sources said here today.

However, the dates of the visit have not been finalised yet, the sources said.

''The External Affairs Minister's visit is under consideration.

Dates not finalised yet,'' the sources said.

The decision follows an invitation by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to the External Affairs Minister to visit Sri Lanka ''at an early date'' to discuss the situation in the island nation and also the developments concerning the Tamil population.

The invitation came consequent to a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa last night in which the two leaders agreed to maintain dialogue at a high political level, officials said here today, quoting the Sri Lankan Foireign Ministry.

''Consequent to this discussion, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has invited the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka at an early date. Both leaders agreed to maintain a dialogue at a high political level, in keeping with the longstanding and excellent bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka,'' the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to officials here.

The Lankan President will also send a special envoy to New Delhi to apprise the Indian governement of the situation and allay India's concerns on the developments.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is under severe pressure domestically to take a serious view of the matter, in the telephonic conversation with the Lankan President last night, expressed deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the North of Sri Lanka, especially on the plight of civilians caught in the hostilities.

He emphasised that the safety and security of these civilians must be safeguarded at all costs.

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