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Not worried about China’s presence in Lanka: US

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 July 2010 07:21 No Comment]

The United States is not concerned about the increasing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said here on Wednesday.

Briefing the media after meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris, and other political and business leaders, Blake said that the US and China were aware of each other’s national interests and were in touch with each other over a variety of issues. He had himself interacted with the Chinese Foreign Minister on these issues.

Blake, however, added that he had taken up with Rajapaksa the issue of Sri Lanka’s ties with Iran. He noted that the Sri Lankan leaders were aware of the US’s concerns about Iran, and the resolutions of the UN Security Council on Iran.

The ranking US official had urged the Sri Lankan President to work with the Tamil political parties to find an acceptable political solution to the ethnic question, while resettling and rehabilitating the war displaced Tamils in North Sri Lanka. He said he had asked the President to implement the 13th and 17th amendments.

Blake said that he had been trying to persuade the Tamil Diaspora in the US to undertake developmental and business ventures in the war-affected North, and had witnessed a change in their mindset.

He had urged told the Sri Lankan business community in Colombo to invest in tourism, agriculture and fisheries in the North. The US, he said, could help private firms set up ventures in the North as it had done in the Eastern province.  

On human rights issues, Blake said that he had sought from the Sri Lankan government steps to ensure the freedom of the media and also transparency in regard to the conditions under which LTTE cadre were kept in the detention camps.

The US itself had not sought access to these camps, he clarified .But the US would like organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to be given access.

He urged the Sri Lankan government to accept the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s advisory committee on human rights in the country. The committee is not going to advice the Sri Lankan government but the UN Secretary General, he stressed.  But Sri Lanka could benefit from the panel’s experience about rights issues in the post-conflict phase in many countries.

A two member delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which met Blake earlier in the day, told him that by putting ethnic reconciliation ahead of a political settlement, the Sri Lankan government was putting the cart before the horse.

It is only a political settlement which could pave the way to ethnic reconciliation they said. The Rajapaksa government, the TNA MPs said, had not placed any proposals for a political settlement though it was more than a year since the war against the Tamil militants had ended.

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