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US, Britain for ‘temporary’ halt in Sri Lanka war


Colombo : The US and Britain have called for a “temporary” truce in Sri Lanka to let civilians trapped by fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the military to leave for safer areas.

A joint statement issued following a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Washington Tuesday expressed “serious concern” about the “deteriorating humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka caused by the ongoing hostilities”.

A statement from the US embassy said the two leaders “affirmed their insistence on a political resolution to this long-standing conflict” and added that the “time to resume political discussions is now”.

Clinton and Miliband called on Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) “to agree to a temporary no-fire period”, to ensure the safety of the civilians caught up in the war, the statement said.

“Both sides need to allow civilians and wounded to leave the conflict area and to grant access to humanitarian agencies.”

The US and Britain promised to work with the Tokyo Co-Chairs grouping, which includes the US, Japan, Norway and the 27-member European Union, and also Sri Lanka and the UN to facilitate such a process.

The co-chairs had earlier jointly expressed “great concern” about the plight of thousands of internally displaced people trapped by fighting in northern Sri Lanka.

“We join the co-chairs and call on the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka not to fire out of or into the safe zone established by the government,” said the embassy statement about the Miliband-Clinton meet.

“We also call on both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, and ensure the safety of aid and medical workers.

“The LTTE and the government must respect the international law of armed conflict.”