The foreign ministers of France and Britain arrived in Sri Lanka today and urged the government to accept a ceasefire in its war with ethnic Tamil rebels. Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband insisted that the fighting must stop now in order to safeguard the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the coastal strip where the rebels are mounting their last stand. "Protection of civilians is absolutely paramount in our minds," Miliband said.
The government has repeatedly rejected calls for a truce, saying any pause in its battle against the Tamil Tigers would give the rebels time to regroup. But in recent weeks, reports from the area have outlined growing civilian casualties and cases of starvation. Later today the diplomats, who are on an EU mission, will tour displacement camps overwhelmed by the influx of an estimated 120,000 war refugees in the past 10 days.