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US calls for end to hostilities in Sri Lanka

The United States has expressed deep concern about the fighting in Sri Lanka and has called upon the government and the military of the island-nation and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to immediately stop hostilities until the more than 140,000 civilians in the conflict area are safely out.

"The United States government is deeply concerned about the current danger to civilian lives and the dire humanitarian situation created by the fighting in the Mullaittivu area in Sri Lanka," US State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said at his daily briefing here Thursday.

"We call upon the government and military of Sri Lanka, and the Tamil Tigers to immediately stop hostilities until the more than 140,000 civilians in the conflict area are safely out," he said.

Mr Wood said both sides must immediately return to a humanitarian pause and both must respect the right of free movement of those civilian men, women and children trapped by the fighting.

"The United States calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to assist its Tamil citizens by halting shelling of the safe zone, permitting international monitors to ensure the safe exit of the civilians," he said.

Mr Wood said the Sri Lankan government should also enforce international humanitarian standards in camps for the internally displaced persons, grant visas to international aid groups and permit entry into Sri Lanka of international monitors and media access to those camps.

"The Sri Lankan government, as the legitimate sovereign power, has before it an opportunity to put an end to this lengthy conflict," he said.

The spokesman said a durable and lasting peace would only be achieved through a political solution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankan communities.

"Further killing, particularly killing of civilians, will not end the conflict and will stain any eventual peace. We urge the Sri Lankan government to employ diplomacy to permit a peaceful outcome of this conflict. We call on the Sri Lankan government to put forward a proposal now to engage Tamils who do not espouse violence or terrorism, and to develop power sharing arrangements so that lasting peace and reconciliation can be achieved," he added.

NNN

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