US tells Sri Lanka time to engage Tamils, others

The United States has welcomed the end of the fighting in Sri Lanka and said it was an opportunity for the island nation to turn the page on its past and build a country rooted in democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights.

"Now is the time for the government to engage the Tamils, Sinhalese, and other Sri Lankans to create a political arrangement that promotes and protects the rights of all Sri Lankans," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said at his daily briefing on Monday after the Sri Lanka government had announced it had won the long-drawn war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and decimated its leadership.

Mr Kelly also expressed relief that the immense loss of life and killing of innocent civilians appeared to be over.

"It is also vital for the government to provide for the needs of the 280,000 civilians now living in relief camps. Providing food, water, shelter, basic health care, and sanitation, as well as expediting their return to their homes should be a top priority for the government," he said.

He said the the focus needed to be on the very urgent short-term problem of providing for the needs of the internall displaced persons (IDPs), and then to begin the process of reconciliation of a political process that includes all of the people of Sri Lanka.

In reply to another question, Mr Kelly said it appeared that the long suffering of the Sri Lankan people is now over.

Mr Kelly also said US policy on the LTTE had been very clear. "We see them as a terrorist organization."


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