Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, G.L. Peiris, on Tuesday called for his government to be given "space" to deal with the legacy of three decades of ethnic conflict and rejected allegations of "triumphalism" saying that Colombo was engaged in a process of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

Denying criticism that the Government had been too slow to deal with the humanitarian crisis, Professor Peiris said that "significant" progress had been made in areas of infrastructure development and in rehabilitating those affected by the conflict, including ex-LTTE combatants.

"We are proud of what we have achieved in the brief period of two years," he said.

A number of delegations of MPs, business leaders and officials from the west had visited Jaffna and other areas in recent months and they were all satisfied with the progress. A European delegation in a report said that the "bleak situation" portrayed in the west was not borne out by what they saw on the ground.

Prof Peiris said British businesses were keen to strengthen engagement with Sri Lanka. Security and safety were no longer a problem, he said pointing out that new hotels were coming up in the areas which had been affected by the conflict and tourism was now the "most visible growth area".

The Government, he said, was seriously engaged in the process of reconciliation and urged critics to recognise the scale of the "challenge" that the Government had to deal with.

"Sri Lanka must be given space to achieve this (reconciliation)," he said.

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