Tamils block streets outside Westminster

LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of chanting demonstrators demanding a cease-fire between Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger separatists blocked streets outside parliament on Monday.

Pro-Tamil demonstrators protest in Parliament Square in London April 20, 2009. T REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Police rushed in reinforcements to contain the noisy protest by Tamils and their supporters who flooded the square outside parliament, disrupting traffic in busy central London.

MPs were returning to work on Monday after the Easter recess.

Yellow-coated police linked arms as they struggled to contain protesters trying to surge over Westminster Bridge, which they occupied earlier this month.

Police then parked vans across the street to stop demonstrators getting through.

They estimated some 2,500 people were taking part in the protest. A police spokesman said there had been no arrests.

Demonstrators shouted “cease-fire now” and waved Tamil flags and placards with slogans such as “Stop killing innocent Tamil kids and civilians.”

Tamils and their supporters have been keeping up regular demonstrations in London for weeks to draw attention to the conflict in Sri Lanka, where a 25-year civil war has appeared to be reaching its final chapter for weeks now.

On Monday Sri Lanka gave Tamil Tiger rebels 24 hours to surrender after thousands of civilians fled the war zone when troops breached an earthen fortification blocking their exit route, the military said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told reporters that there were about 35,000 people waiting to leave the military-controlled area.

Reporting by Adrian Croft, Matt Falloon