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Sri Lanka: UN urges Tamils to let civilians leave during cease-fire

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Stian Lysberg Solum/Scanpix/Reuters

(Read caption) PROTESTS: A police officer inspects damage at Sri Lanka's embassy in Oslo Sunday after pro-Tamil demonstrators broke into the embassy during protests.

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As the Sri Lankan government began a two-day cease-fire with the Tamil Tiger rebels Monday, the UN urged the rebels – now cornered in a 5-1/2 square-mile zone – to allow civilians to leave the area. (Click here to see a map of the region.)

Meanwhile, the Tamil diaspora has stepped up its protests against the Sri Lankan government in recent days, with demonstrations in Australia, Britain, and Norway, and hunger strikes in Canada.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 civilians are still trapped in the conflict area, and last week warned of a "bloodbath" if they are not evacuated. The government says it has nearly wiped out the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a conventional military force, after a grueling, 14-month campaign that saw fierce trench warfare.

Xinhua and the Indo-Asian News Service reported that the cease-fire was mostly holding Monday, save for two rebel attacks. Rebels killed one soldier and wounded another in a mortar attack, and a rebel sniper also killed one soldier.

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