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World

Britain, France condemn Tamil rebels

Britain and France have condemned Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka for using civilians as human shields against government attacks. But they also asked the government for a new pause to allow civilians to leave the area.

Tamil Tioger child soldiers on a truck

The Tamil Tiger rebels are also accused of deploying child soldiers

In a joint statement on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, welcomed the Sri Lankan government's original announcement on April 12 of a two-day pause in its military offensive in order to protect civilians, but they said they were concerned that the Tamil Tiger rebels had not allowed civilians to leave the conflict area.

The Sri Lankan military has announced that it is now free to begin a final assault to end the 25-year war against the rebels. It says only 1,000 rebels remain, and it accuses the fighters of holding around 100,000 civilians as human shields.

The British and French foreign ministers called on the government to announce a new pause, saying that "democratic governments are rightly held to higher standards for civilian protection than terrorist organizations."