Britain and Norway made a last minute bid to save the lives of two Tamil Tiger leaders but in vain as Sri Lankan troops closed in, the media reported on Saturday.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political chief, B Nadesan, and peace secretariat head, S Pulidevan, had attempted to surrender, The Daily Telegraph said, in a report quoting Vijay Nambiar, the United Nation Secretary-General's envoy and chef de cabinet.
The men were later found dead amid claims that they were shot while waving a white flag. Western diplomats have warned that the Sri Lankan government could face a war crimes investigation.
According to the report, British and Norwegian ministers joined UN officials in trying to save the two men as the Sri Lankan army moved to 'annihilate' the rebels. Friends of the two men asked Norway's international development minister, Erik Solheim and British foreign ministers to intervene on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday.
Nambiar said he was contacted by British officials, who asked him to make the Sri Lankan government aware that Nadesan and Pulidevan wanted to surrender. Nambiar said he passed the message to Dr Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's foreign secretary, but was told the safe surrender of the men could not be guaranteed and that 'it may be too late'.
Dr Kohona denied he had contact with Nambiar, but said he had messages indicating the two men's intention to surrender.
A Foreign Office spokesman could not confirm the British ministers' involvement but said 'it would not be surprising' if they had passed on messages of this kind to the UN. Britain's relationship with Sri Lanka has deteriorated dramatically in the past three months.
David Miliband, UK's foreign secretary, has voiced concerns at the number of civilian casualties and the Sri Lankan government's failure to address genuine Tamil grievances.