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Sri Lanka's President Seeks to Boost War Budget

Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapakse, is seeking approval for higher defense spending, which he says is needed to eradicate what he called "terrorism" as government forces ramp up their offensive against northern ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels.

The president, who also serves as finance minister, is requesting a record $1.6 billion in military expenditures in 2009, up from $1.5 billion this year, as part of efforts to end the war which began in 1972. That is an increase of more than six percent over this year's defense budget.

The military says its troops have recently advanced toward the rebel administrative capital, Kilinochchi, despite fierce resistance. The government has vowed to wipe out the Tamil Tigers by the end of the year. Late last month, the rebels launched a series of attacks against government targets, including an air strike on the capital, Colombo.

Sri Lanka has been experiencing a weakening rupee, slower growth, dwindling foreign reserves and rising inflation. The overall $11 billion budget depends partly on overseas borrowing, despite warnings from the International Monetary Fund this could lead to more economic problems.

The budget is expected to be discussed over the next few weeks, and could make the government fall, if it fails to be passed.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.