(AFP) WASHINGTON - Some 150 protesting Tamils converged on the White House on Monday to condemn civilian deaths in the strife-torn nation and call on President Barack Obama to take a lead in cease-fire negotiations.
'We are asking the US for a ceasefire,' said Mr Nagalingam Jeyalingam, who travelled from New York to Washington for the protest.
'The rebels declared a ceasefire unilaterally, but the Sri Lankan government refuses to accept a ceasefire - they want to keep bombing until the civilians are wiped out.' The United Nations on Monday condemned a civilian 'bloodbath' in Sri Lanka, saying more than 100 children had been killed in weekend shelling that the government and rebels blamed on each other.
The United Nations estimates that as many as 50,000 civilians may be trapped in the less than 5 sq km area where the Tamil Tiger rebels are holed up.
Artillery strikes in the small stretch of coastline still held by the rebels in the island's northeast caused major casualties among the tens of thousands of non-combatants, both sides reported.
Protest organisers said they expect 300 people to join the vocal three-day demonstrations. 'President Obama, save the Tamils. Yes you can,' protesters chanted outside the White House gates.
Waving banners blazoned with 'Stop the Genocide,' protesters also denounced the international media for ignoring civilian suffering in Sri Lanka.
'We don't hear enough from the media,' said protester Elias Jeyarajah, noting the blanket coverage of Israel's assault on Gaza that killed just over 1,400 Palestinians.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet website said on Monday that the civilian death toll in the last few days from government attacks had risen to 3,200 people.
Casualty claims from the war zone are impossible to verify as journalists and international monitors are not allowed to travel freely in the area.
Mr Jeyarajah, who journeyed with 20 others from the south-eastern state of North Carolina to join the demonstration, said the Tamil diaspora in the United States hoped Mr Obama would lead the international community in a 'Responsibility to Protect' move for humanitarian intervention in the island nation.