M A I N   N E W S

UN, US call for pause in Lanka

United Nations, April 23
Terming the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka’s war zone as “absolutely critical”, the United Nations, the US and the UK today called for a pause in fighting and demanded access to the embattled northern areas to help the trapped Tamil civilians.

In a non-binding statement, the 15-member strong UN Security Council which met here asked the LTTE to immediately surrender, renounce terrorism and join the political process through dialogue to put and end to decades old ethnic conflict.

The UNSC held an informal meeting because Sri Lanka was not on its agenda as China and Russia, both members with Veto power, insist that war is an internal conflict.

“We demand that the LTTE immediately lay down arms, renounce terrorism, allow a UN assisted evacuation of the remaining civilians in the conflict area, and join the political process through dialogue,” UNSC President Claude Heller, who is also Mexican Ambassador, told reporters today after a meeting convened at the request of France.

“The UN must be given access to the conflict zone so that we can assess the situation and also bring help to those who are in need,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said here.

Bragg said the UN officials are ready to go into the conflict zones as soon as the government would grant permission to do so.

Two other key permanent members, the US and the UK, asked Sri Lanka to uphold its international obligation to save the lives of the thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zones.

The British and American envoys to the UN called on the Rajapaksa government to allow access to international monitors in the conflict zone and urged the LTTE not to take civilians as hostage.

“I spoke on behalf of the US, just how grave we view the situation. It’s dire and we are deeply concerned,” Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, told reporters after emerging from the meeting.

Condemning the action by LTTE to hold thousands of innocent civilians hostage in the so-called safe zones, Rice said: “We think, it is absolutely imperative that both sides cease the fighting and the heavy shelling that is putting thousands of civilians in immediate danger.”

Both the British and US envoys welcomed development that tens of thousands of civilians have managed to leave the conflict zone. But Rice said the US was frankly appalled by the fact that many of the civilians who have been able to leave from the safe zone are unable to receive life saving treatment and assistance. — PTI



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