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Last updated: 22 January, 2009 - Published 11:23 GMT
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UN protest to LTTE for keeping civilians
The United Nations in Sri Lanka has protested strongly to the Tamil Tigers over their refusal to allow local UN staff and their dependents to leave rebel-held territory.

United Nations
UN says LTTE does is violating

In a statement issued from Colombo, the UN say "The United Nations in Sri Lanka has issued its strongest possible protest to the LTTE for their refusal to allow UN national staff and dependents to return from the Vanni with the present UN convoy"

The staff are part of a UN convoy which went into the Vanni region several days ago delivering food and other emergency supplies to people in the area displaced by the recent fighting.

"The UN calls on the LTTE to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependents to freely move from this area," the statement says.

Civilians trapped

A UN statement said that the Tigers' denial to allow safe passage was a clear breach of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

There's been no response yet from the rebels.

The present convoy is the eleventh to take supplies to those people trapped in the midst of fighting in the Vanni.

The acting spokesman for the UN in Colombo, James Elder, told BBC Sandeshaya that not only UN workers but tens of thousands of other civilians are also prevented from leaving Vanni by the LTTE.

"We have a situation where we have a large population of civilians who are not being allowed to move freely out of the conflict zone," he said.

Mr. Elder told BBC Sinhala service that it is essential that civilians are allowed to leave the battle zone.

He did not wish to comment on the security provided by the government for the civilians leaving Vanni.

Since early October UN convoys have brought approximately 7,000 tons of vital food and relief supplies to displaced populations.

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