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. Foreign troops off Tiger rebel areas in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka
COLOMBO (AFP) Jan 02, 2005
Sri Lanka was Sunday waiting for a green light from Tamil Tiger rebels to deploy foreign military personnel to carry out tsunami relief operations in areas dominated by them, officials said.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has asked officials to make a request to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow foreign medical teams to help survivors in territory controlled by the Tigers.

"Sri Lankan, Indian and Russian helicopters are also standing by to provide humanitarian assistance to affected areas in north," Kumaratunga's office said in a statement.

The United States will have one of the biggest contingents of up to 1,500 marines deployed in the south of the island from later Sunday, but none of them will be sent to areas dominated by Tigers, official sources said.

Defence officials said a Russian medical team was turned back from a rebel-held area. Tiger rebels, however, have said they need international aid, but have not said if they welcome foreign military medical teams or not.

"So far the Tigers have not indicated any desire to have these foreign military humanitarian relief teams in areas held by them," a Western diplomatic source here said.

India has nearly 1,000 naval personnel together with five ships and a fleet of helicopters helping with the relief operations and caring for the injured.

France, Japan, Greece, Spain and Switzerland have sent medical teams.

The president's office said the toll in last Sunday's tragedy had risen to 29,729 people dead, mostly children, pregnant women and the elderly.

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