4 Feb 2009

International call for Tamil Tigers to surrender

8:08 am on 4 February 2009

The United States, the European Union, Japan and Norway have urged Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers rebels to consider surrendering to avoid more deaths, including among thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone.

In a joint statement they said there remained "probably only a short period of time" before the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam loses control of all areas in the north and urged the rebels to discuss surrender.

"The LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka should recognize that further loss of life -- of civilians and combatants -- will serve no cause," the statement said.

Sri Lanka's military has encircled the Tigers and is confident it will win a war that is now one of Asia's longest-running conflicts, in which 70,000 people have been killed since 1983.

As the joint statement was issued, the International Committee of the Red Cross said civilians were fleeing a hospital that had been shelled for a fifth time in three days.

The Red Cross said at least 12 people have been killed in the hospital in Puthukudiyiruppu, inside the 300 sq km of jungle in the north where the Sri Lankan military has cornered the separatist guerrillas.

The US, EU, Japan and Norway also urged both sides to respect international humanitarian law and a temporary cease fire to allow the sick and wounded out and aid into the war zone.