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US mounts political pressure on Lanka

[Express Buzz, Sunday, 6 December 2009 09:30 No Comment]

Close on the heels of India’s appeal to Sri Lanka to move towards ethnic reconciliation and a meaningful political solution to the 30-year conflict, the US is sending Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, to Colombo next week to encourage post-war reconciliation.

Blake will be in Lanka on Monday and Tuesday, the State Department said in Washington.

A former US ambassador to Colombo, he will meet with “government officials, political leaders and civil society,” the department said in a statement.

Lanka opened the gates of the camps on December 1 as part of a plan to close down the widely-condemned displacement camps by the end of January.

But many civilians have stayed put because their villages were destroyed or mined in the long ethnic war.

But the Lankan government says that only 20 per cent of the 112,000 still in the camps had availed of the freedom to move out and come back again, which speaks of the good conditions in the camps.

“We welcome the government of Sri Lanka’s actions to allow increased freedom of movement for IDPs,” a US official said.

“We hope that all Sri Lankans who have been displaced from their homes over the course of the conflict can voluntarily return to their homes and villages in safety and dignity as soon as possible.” “We urge the government of Sri Lanka to continue and strengthen its cooperation with the international community to provide assistance and services to the returnees,” he added.

The US was looking at additional assistance options after providing nearly 58 million dollars in humanitarian aid in the past year, the official stated.

VISIT OF UN ENVOY: At the invitation of the Lankan government, the UN will be sending to Lanka next week Maj Gen Patrick Cammaert as Special Envoy of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Between Dec 6 and 11, the retired Dutch Marine Corps General will do follow-up work on the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on Lanka within the framework of Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005). He will report to the Security Council Working Group on return to New York.

He will ascertain first hand the situation of the children affected by the recent conflict with a view to ensuring greater child protection.

Besides, he will pay particular attention to the situation of displaced children and the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups into civilian life.

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