End of war in Sri Lanka welcomed amid concerns about human cost

May 20th, 2009 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 20 (DPA) Celebrations to mark the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war were planned on a national holiday Wednesday as the international community welcomed the end to fighting. But some countries expressed concerns about the human cost of the conflict’s end phase.
Most of the events planned Wednesday were to praise the security forces involved in the military operations against the Tamil rebels, which drew to an end Monday. Television and radio programmes were being broadcast to pay tribute to the military personnel.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself joined street celebrations Tuesday night to mark the end of the more than 25-year conflict.

Russia greeted Sri Lanka’s announcement of the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), saying it supported the government’s “fight against terrorism”.

“Moscow wishes our friend, Sri Lanka’s government and people, to swiftly overcome the conflict’s consequences and build successful economic and social progress based on inter-ethnic accord and respect of all ethnic and religious groups,” a statement from the Russian foreign ministry said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki telephoned his Sri Lankan counterpart, Rohitha Bogollagama, to congratulate the Sri Lankan government.

The US said it welcomed the cessation of the conflict but added that it remained deeply concerned about the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of civilians uprooted in the recent fighting.

“We especially recognise the tremendous loss of life and hardship endured by civilians in northern Sri Lanka during the past weeks and months and are relieved that this loss of life has ended,” US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was quoted as saying in a statement released in Colombo.

“We urge the government to allow humanitarian access to the (refugee) camps,” the statement added.

The statement also urged the government to work with the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations to ensure the refugees are treated properly.

More than 250,000 displaced people are currently being housed in government camps in the Northern Province, and the government has promised that they would be re-settled as soon as possible in their original villages.

The country’s ethnic conflict claimed more than 80,000 lives and did enormous damage to the country’s economy, including its tourist industry.

Meanwhile, in the last round of fighting Monday, as many as 450 rebels were believed killed and their bodies were being recovered in ongoing clearance operations, military officials said.

The body of the leader of the Sea Tigers, the LTTE’s naval wing, identified as Soosai, was recovered Tuesday night. He was among 18 senior members of the group who were killed along with LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

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