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Menon conveys India's concerns to Sri Lankan leaders

Written by: Staff

Colombo, Nov 23 (UNI) India's Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shanker Menon, who arrived in Sri Lanka late last night on a two-day visit, held talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and reportedly conveyed New Delhi's ''deep concern'' over the deteriorating security situation in the island nation.

Mr Menon, after his meeting with President Rajapaksa and other government leaders, met a cross section of political and civil society leaders at dinner tonight at India House here in Colombo and said he would be stopping over in Chennai on his way to New Delhi tomorrow morning.

''I will have to first inform my government on the discussion I had here with the Sri Lankan President and other leaders before talking to you,'' Mr Menon told mediapersons, refusing to divulge the details of the discussions he had here.

However, diplomatic sources here said the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary, during his meeting with the Sri Lankan President, conveyed the ''same concerns'' articulated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his reply letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Kalaignar M Karunanidhi.

The Indian Prime Minister, in his reply letter to Mr Karunanidhi said that ''India's interest in a solution to the ethnic problem there that would protect the interests of that country's Tamil citizens within the framework of a united and federal Sri Lanka, is deep and continuous''.

''However, the priority at this time has to be to ensure full respect for humanitarian standards, so that civilian casulties are prevented,'' Dr Singh had said.

The visiting Indian Foreign Secretary also met Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Foreign Ministry officials, head of the government peace secretariat Dr Palitha Kohona, Leader of the main opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and held talks on the current situation in the island nation.

Taking note of the situation in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, India said it was planning to dispatch 5,200 tonnes of rice, 1,500 tonnes of sugar and 300 tonnes of milk powder.

According to diplomatic sources, various logistical arrangments were discussed on how to send the Indian supply accross to the people in need.

Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said Mr Menon had discussed with the Sri Lankan authorities a whole gammut of issues of bilateral interest.

''These included, among others, the current developments relating to the peace process, status of negotiations on the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (CEPA), proposed Indian investment in a coal power plant in Trincomalee and on prospects for cooperation in the health and cultural spheres,'' the statement said.

On November nine, Mr Karunanidhi, in a letter to Dr Singh had said that ''the time was now ripe to rethink and find an answer to the Sri Lankan crisis''.

Condemning Sri Lankan Army for going on ''the rampage'', Mr Karunanidhi said ''apart from the aerial bombing, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces fired missiles, resulting in heaps of dead bodies of hundreds of children.'' Pointing out that even the Norway peace team was attacked, the Chief Minister said he wished to bring to the notice of the Centre the pertinent question that had now arisen, ''How long was India going to keep patience?'' with regard to Sri Lanka.

Not stopping with that, Mr Karunanidhi rushed his Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu to meet Dr Singh, requesting the Indian Prime Minister's ''immediate and appropriate intervention'' in the matter and to put an end to such unprovoked and indiscriminate offensives of the Sri Lankan Army''.


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