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Top UN official heading to Sri Lanka

[AFP, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 08:12 No Comment]

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is sending a top aide to Sri Lanka to press authorities to let displaced civilians held in camps since the crushing of the Tamil separatist insurgency return home as soon as possible, the world body said Monday.

UN under secretary general for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told a press briefing that he would leave for the Indian Ocean island Tuesday at Ban’s request to discuss the fate of internally displaced Tamils held in state-run camps.

He said the UN was concerned about the slow implementation of commitments made to Ban when he visited Sri Lanka in May, "particularly about the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in camps, getting them out and getting them home as soon as possible."

During his visit, the UN secretary general toured Sri Lanka’s biggest camp for displaced civilians after government troops finally crushed separatists of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The decisive battle ended the LTTE’s four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland, one of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflicts, which left between 80,000 and 100,000 people dead.

The large number of civilians killed during the last stage of the fighting touched off an international uproar and aid groups now fear for the welfare of 300,000 minority Tamils held in the state-run camps.

Pascoe said Ban on Monday also had a telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that touched on human rights issues and accountability for rights abuses committed by both government forces and LTTE fighters.

Also discussed were the case of two UN employees being held without charge in Sri Lanka since June on suspicion of collaborating with Tamil separatists and the recent expulsion of the UNICEF communications chief from the country, he added.

[Full Coverage]

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