The Sri Lankan government has rejected a ceasefire declaration by rebels in the north, - saying it was a "joke", and the Tamil Tigers are close to defeat. (...) Aid workers have been barred from the area since the fighting escalated last year and the rebels say the government is deliberately blocking food aid - a charge the Sri Lankan authorities deny. Mr Rajapaksa told the BBC the Tigers were the "the losing side" and denied media reports that he had been stopping food supplies to trapped civilians. He said that he himself had asked the World Food Programme and the Red Cross to deliver relief to them. Images from surveillance drones showed there were 15,000 civilians left in the war zone, he added.