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Sri Lanka expels UN official over reported comment

[AP, Sunday, 6 September 2009 17:20 No Comment]

A United Nations official has been banished from Sri Lanka reportedly after discussing how the government’s decades-long battle with Tamil Tiger rebels took its toll on children in the war zone.

The residency visa of U.N. Children’s Fund communications chief James Elder was revoked and he must leave the country by Sept. 21, Immigration Commissioner P.B. Abeykoon said Sunday.

Abeykoon gave no reason for the decision. But local media have reported authorities were angered by Elder’s remarks on the plight of children caught up in the government’s military campaign against the now-defeated Tiger rebels and those currently living in displacement camps.

"We have not got any reason as to why. We are in discussion with the government," said Sarah Crowe, UNICEF’s head of communications for South Asia, of Elder’s expulsion.

Sri Lankan soldiers defeated the Tigers in May ending one of Asia’s longest civil wars.

Tamil Tigers fought the government since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils. The conflict killed between 80,000-100,000 people, according to U.N. estimates.

As fighting peaked earlier this year, the U.N. and other human rights groups said an increasing number of civilians, many of them children, were caught in the crossfire and killed.

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