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VOL. 8, NO. 313


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Red Cross says number of civilians killed in Sri Lanka 's war has reached `appalling levels'
Associated Press, Wed February 13, 2008 18:06 EST . BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Civilian casualties have reached ``appalling levels'' in Sri Lanka - 's civil war, the Red Cross said Wednesday as the military announced its troops killed 15 ethnic Tamil rebels in clashes across the island nation's restive north. Over a three-day period earlier this month, at least 44 people died from suspected rebel attacks on two civilian buses and a suicide bombing at Colombo's main railway station. The attacks came as Sri Lanka - celebrated its 60th independence day.

``The number of civilians affected by the violence throughout the country, either by being directly targeted or as bystanders, has reached appalling levels,'' Toon Vandenhove, head of the local delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in statement. ``Sadly, many of the victims have been children on their way to or from school.''

Violence has killed more than 180 civilians and wounded almost 270 in the first six weeks of the year, the Red Cross said.

Fighting and other violence have escalated since the government withdrew from a 2002 cease-fire last month, and the military puts the overall death toll at 1,000 since then.

With clashes rising around the Tamil Tigers' de facto state in the north, the government has accused the rebels of retaliating with attacks on civilians and military targets in the south.

A series of battles Wednesday in northern Mannar and Vavuniya districts killed 15 rebels, the defense ministry said. Two soldiers were killed when insurgents detonated a roadside bomb outside the town of Vavuniya, the military spokesman, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, said.

There was no immediate comment from the rebel spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthirayan, but the two sides routinely give vastly different accounts of fighting and casualties.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for Tamils after decades of being marginalized by the Sinhalese majority in this South Asian nation. Fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Feb 13 20:31:59 EST 2008

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180 Sri Lankan civilians killed in six weeks of violence  - NewKerala

UN Says Soaring Prices Leave Poor Hungry
Associated Press, Wed February 13, 2008 15:50 EST . NEW YORK - Many of the world's poorest people are unable to get enough food because of soaring prices partly caused by the use of food crops to produce biofuels, the head of the UN food agency said.

"We're seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before," Josette Sheeran, executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program, said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press.

Higher oil prices are contributing to steeper food prices by boosting transportation costs, and severe weather is also hitting many countries and hurting crop output, she said.

"We're seeing many people being priced out of the food markets for the first time," said Sheeran, who was at UN headquarters for a General Assembly debate on global warming.

"For the world's most vulnerable, it's extremely urgent," she added.

The WFP provides food aid around the globe, and Sheeran said the amount of food the agency can afford to buy for hungry children is down 40 per cent from just five years ago.

One of the problems is the drive to use corn, soybeans, sugar cane and other crops to produce biofuels, which are seen as a cleaner and cheaper way to meet soaring energy needs than greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. That has led to less grain being available for food, driving up prices for basic foods in many countries.

Another UN agency in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization, said Wednesday that some 100 million tonnes of cereals are being diverted to the production of biofuels each year. Nearly all of that is corn - 12 per cent of all the corn consumed around the globe, the FAO said.

The agency, which promotes agriculture improvements, said the biofuel uses along with growing demand for food has pushed world food stocks to their lowest level since 1982. It estimated food stocks would total 405 million tons at the end of the current season, a five per cent drop from the start.

Sheeran said more must be done to supply food to the neediest while markets adjust to the biofuel demand.

"More food will be produced. Farmers will respond, and maybe there'll be investment in the African farmer for the first time, for example, in many decades," she said.

"When that happens we'll get increased food in the food supply system. But there's a lag, so we have people very vulnerable right now who can't afford the food."

Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, cited rising demand from high economic growth in developing countries and the production of biofuels as the biggest factor in high food prices.

"If you look at both of these factors, the biofuels-related price increases have started to dominate, or lead to a price increase of about 30 per cent," he said.

"Most Latin American countries have passed international prices on to consumers and producers, such as Mexico. Some have closed their borders, like Ethiopia and India, and thereby tried to maintain domestic prices. But by doing so they starve their neighbours."

Von Braun said food shortages could be eased by keeping borders open to trade, increasing global research in agriculture and creating special programs to feed more young children.

Sheeran said it also would help if biofuel makers focused on using plants that aren't good for food, noting that anything with cellulose can be used for such fuels, citing switchgrass, shrubs and trees as examples.

Instead, she said, "we're seeing everything be used from cassava to maize to palm oil to wheat - all sorts of (food) crops."

Using nonfood crops might bring additional benefits, because those plants often "can be grown on soil that couldn't be used for food," she added. "This can be a boon for poor farmers around the world. This can help poor countries."

But Sheeran said the World Food Program was not recommending the use of nonfood crops for biofuel, saying that required a policy discussion.

WFP is studying 30 countries it considers to be the most vulnerable to high food prices to determine how many people are affected, Sheeran said.

"We know, for example, in Afghanistan there's been an emergency appeal for $77 million worth of food because they simply cannot import the food to fill the shelves," she said. "Prices are too high."

According to a recent Afghan government and WFP analysis, wheat prices rose more than 60 per cent on average in 2007 and as much as 80 per cent in some locations.

Rick Corsino, WFP's country director in Afghanistan, said: "Afghanistan faces so many hardships - and now global increases in the price of wheat mean that bread, the basic staple of the Afghan diet, is out of reach for millions of Afghans."

WFP said Sri Lanka's government reported a 50 per cent price increase for rice and a 62 per cent jump for wheat flour last year. It said Benin reported a 100 per cent leap in corn prices and 13 per cent rises for wheat flour and rice just between July and January.

.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Feb 13 20:35:48 EST 2008 Back to the top

Sri Lanka accuses international rights groups of bias, 2008-02-13 21:34:23 . COLOMBO, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan government on Wednesday accused international rights groups of bias for their alleged failure to condemn the killings of students by Tamil Tiger rebels.

Keheliya Rambukwella, the minister of Foreign Employment and the government's defense spokesman told reporters that some 14 school children had been killed as a result of recent bomb explosions blamed on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

"These groups who are very quick to blame the government have remained silent on the LTTE's killing of students," Rambukwella said. More... Discuss this story
Published: Wed Feb 13 20:32:49 EST 2008 Back to the top

India to help Sri Lanka set up 500M-W power plant
NewKerala, feb 14. By P.K. Balachandran, Colombo, Feb 13 : India and Sri Lanka Wednesday agreed on a timetable to build a 500 MW coal-fired power plant in Veloor, near Nilaweli, in the eastern Sri Lankan district of Trincomalee... Back to the top

Sri Lanka to take up sea attack issue with India
NewKerala, feb 14. Feb 13: The chief of the Sri Lankan Navy is to take up the issue of an attack against a Sri Lankan naval ship from a flotilla of Indian fishing boats, a government spokesman here said Wednesday... Back to the top

AIADMK seeks action against Karunanidhi for LTTE support
NewKerala, feb 14. Chennai, Feb 13: The Opposition AIADMK today urged the Centre to take action against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for his open support to the proscribed LTTE and play a role in finding a political solution to the ethnic Tamils issue in Sri Lanka... Back to the top

Buddhist monks begin praying for world peace
NewKerala, feb 14. By Surya Pratap Singh, Bodh Gaya, Feb.13 : Thousands of Buddhist monks and devotees, many of them from abroad, are participating in a 10-day chanting ceremony for world peace here... Back to the top

India’s assurance to Sri Lanka on economic support
Hindu, feb 14. COLOMBO: Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh called on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa here on Thursday and reiterated India’s commitment to provide economic foundation to the 13th Amendment to the island nation’s Constitution for devolution of powers... Back to the top

Peace promoting at Sri Lanka
Norway Post, feb 14. The Development minister and Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer will be talking with the different parties of the conflict... Back to the top

UN official: Child soldiers recruited and used by 58 groups in 13 countries
Associated Press, Wed February 13, 2008 06:20 EST . EDITH M. LEDERER - Associated Press Writer - The 13 countries where groups that recruit child soldiers operate are Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Philippines, Sri Lanka - and Uganda, according to the report... Back to the top

Rebel artillery fire hits Catholic church in Sri Lanka , killing 6 soldiers, military says
Associated Press, Tue February 12, 2008 05:37 EST . KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Artillery fired by Tamil separatists hit a Roman Catholic church near a military base in Sri Lanka - 's embattled north Tuesday, killing six soldiers who were cleaning the building, the military said... Back to the top

64 killed in Sri Lanka clashes, feb 12. COLOMBO: At least 64 people were killed in fierce ground clashes and shelling of a key military base close to a Catholic church by Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka's embattled northern region, officials here said on Tuesday... Back to the top

Death toll mounts as Sri Lanka pushes for Tiger territory, 13 jan. COLOMBO (AFP) — Fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tigers intensified in the north of the island Wednesday, officials said, but there was no sign of major gains by either side despite a rising body count... Back to the top

Sri Lanka says kills 48 rebels in fighting in north, 12 jan. COLOMBO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan troops backed by artillery fire killed 48 Tamil Tiger fighters in a series of battles in the north of the island, the military said on Tuesday, as it pressed on with attacks on rebel strongholds... Back to the top

In the Army now
Cricinfo, February 12, 2008.

The Appu Army, the latest addition to the existing bunch that includes the Barmy Army (England), Wave the Flag (Australia) and Bharat Army (India), were here to follow their side closely. The pouring rain didn't matter to them... Back to the top

Maldives President Gayoom visits Sri Lanka on state visit
Associated Press, Tue February 12, 2008 09:52 EST . - - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom arrived Tuesday in Sri Lanka - on a two-day state visit that included talks with top officials and the signing of a series of agreements between the neighboring island nations... Back to the top

Dozens die in Sri Lanka as government targets rebels, February 12 2008. A dozen government soldiers and more than 40 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed in a series of battles in northern Sri Lanka, the defence ministry said today... Back to the top

Tri-Series: Sri Lanka claims first win of series
Associated Press, Tue February 12, 2008 04:03 EST . - - CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Tillekaratne Dilshan's unbeaten 62 and his rapid fire opening stand with Sanath Jayasuriya helped Sri Lanka - to an eight-wicket win over India in a rain-interrupted limited-overs international here Tuesday... Back to the top

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