Sri Lankan officials are rejecting claims that the government may have
committed war crimes during intense fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels in
Sri Lanka's human rights minister, Mahinda
Samarasinghe, on Saturday rejected charges by the U.N.'s human rights
chief that both sides in the civil war are responsible for the deaths
of up to 2,800 civilians since January, many of them inside no-fire
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay,
said Friday that Sri Lanka's military has repeatedly shelled safe
zones. She also accused rebels of holding civilians as human shields.
Samarasinghe called the charges "unsubstantiated" and denied the government had shelled civilian safe zones.
United Nations says 150,000 to 180,000 civilians are trapped in a
shrinking area of rebel territory in northeastern Sri Lanka's
Mullaitivu district. Sri Lanka's government has put the figure at
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton telephoned Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to express
U.S. concern over the loss of life in Sri Lanka's government-designated
"safe zone." She also condemned the actions of the Tamil rebels.
Lanka's government says it is on the verge of defeating the Tamil
Tigers. The ethnic minority rebels have been fighting for an
independent homeland since 1983.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.