France proposes joint Sri Lanka aid plan

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Document\”> France has proposed carrying out a joint relief operation with Britain to help civilians in Sri Lanka who have fled fighting between government forces and Tiger rebels.

“We will try to launch an operation,” Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a radio interviewer on Wednesday, adding he would discuss the plan with his British counterpart David Miliband.

Kouchner said French and British boats could be dispatched to help the tens of thousands of civilians who have fled the conflict zone “because these people are on the beaches and some are drowning at sea”.

Authorities in Sri Lanka said Wednesday that 60,000 men, women and children had managed to escape over the previous two days as the government pressed on with its offensive against the rebels.

Kouchner cautioned that the proposal was still at an early stage.

“You know there have been a lot of relief operations and unfortunately, people are a bit tired of all that, as are governments,” he told France Culture radio.

He also said there were no plans for a military intervention.

“We have certainly not reached that point,” he said.

US and Red Cross officials have raised alarm over the plight of civilians, with Washington saying it feared for the safety of 65,000 or more civilians crowded into tents and makeshift shelters on a beach on the Bay of Bengal.