Hillary Clinton discusses Sri Lanka crisis with Rajapaksa

March 13th, 2009 - 11:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 13 (IANS) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday discussed the current situation in Sri Lanka with President Mahinda Rajapaksa over telephone and acknowledged that the island nation was “now on the verge of defeating terrorism”, official sources here said.
“Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Sri Lanka is now on the verge of defeating terrorism, and that this presented a great opportunity to restore peace, leading to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country,” the president’s office said in a statement Friday night.

“Speaking on current developments, Clinton appreciated the assurances given by secretary defence that civilians would not be subjected to any attacks by the military, stating that the US looked forward to working with Sri Lanka once the current conflict ends,” the statement said.

Describing the telephone conversation as “warm and cordial”, it said that she had expressed her condolences for those killed in the terrorist attack at Akuressa earlier this week and stressed that the terrorists should not be permitted to destroy the lives of people in such a manner.

While informing her about the ongoing military campaign in the north, President Rajapaksa said there were “about 50,000 to 70,000 people still remaining in a very small area held by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), where the LTTE was preventing people leaving for safety outside”, it said.

“The government hoped to clear the LTTE from this enclave within the next few days, the president told Clinton,” the statement said, adding that the people who had managed to come over to government-held areas were being looked after in welfare villages.

Rajapaksa also said that his government was regularly sending food and medicines to all people in the affected areas, including those held by the LTTE, with the assistance of the ICRC and the World Food Program.

Rajapaksa told the US secretary of state that reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north would start as soon as the fighting ended there and that his government was prepared to hold elections to local government bodies in Jaffna as soon as possible, the statement said.

He also briefed Clinton about the political process that had been initiated “through the All Party Representative Committee seeking consensus on a political solution to the problems of the minorities”.

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