US, Britain concerned over Sri Lankan situation

May 13th, 2009 - 5:19 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 13 (Xinhua) The US and Britain have urged the Sri Lankan government as well as the Tamil Tiger rebels to take urgent steps to avoid civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed “alarm at the large number of reported civilian causalities over the past several days” in northern Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Army has recently intensified its operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), vowing to eliminate terrorism from the country.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “victory is near”, although the fighting has drawn international criticism due to the large number of civilian deaths.

In a joint statement, Clinton and Miliband called on both sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

The LTTE “must lay down their arms and allow civilians free passage out of the conflict zone”, the statement said. The Sri Lankan government “must abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons”, it said.

The government has blamed the LTTE for holding civilians as human shields, while the rebels accused the security forces of indiscriminately firing at Tamil civilians.

The two diplomats called on the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians.

The LTTE has been fighting the government troops for decades to establish an independent homeland for the minority Tamils. The US and Britain have declared the LTTE a foreign terrorist organisation. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict since it started in 1983.

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