State of emergency declared in Sri Lanka

A state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka by the country's president Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The country was plunged into chaos three days ago when she suspended parliament and sacked three ministers while the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was in Washington holding peace talks with President Bush. Ms Kumaratunga has also sent troops onto the streets.

The President has been severely critical of the peace efforts Mr Wickremesinghe has been undertaking with the Tamil Tigers, accusing him of threatening national security.

Details of the state of emergency are still not clear, but President Kumaratunga has offered assurances that it will not affect the 20-month old ceasefire. It is currently involving increased security, checkpoints and the registration of Tamils at police stations.

The fragile ceasefire between the government and rebels is an attempt to end 20 years of civil war. The sacking of the peace-process supporting information, defence and interior ministers has attracted much criticism and stunned the country.

President Kumaratunga is the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the parliamentary opposition. It is thought that she is concerned about the Tigers' proposals for a self-governing authority in the north-east of the country.

The United States has urged both the president and the prime minister to work together to avoid jeopardising the peace process.

The UK Foreign Office has issued travel advice against visiting Sri Lanka while the current crisis continues.