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US deeply concerned about SL war refugees

The US has asked the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to cease fighting and go to the negotiating table, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2006 18:48 IST

The United States on Friday expressed "deep concern" over the plight of the war refugees in Sri Lanka and asked the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to cease fighting and go to the negotiating table.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the dislocation of tens of thousands of innocent civilians and the killing of NGO personnel in the northeast."

"We call on the LTTE to return to political negotiations and to renounce terrorism."

"At the same time, we look to the Government of Sri Lanka to address the legitimate grievances of Tamil-speaking people and to respond to incidents of violence against civilians with prompt, independent negotiations."

"Without political commitment and a spirit of compromise between both parties, there will be no end to the conflict," the US embassy said in a statement.

Call for focus on minorities

In view of the fact that in the recent conflict in Sri Lanka, the minority Muslims and the Tamils were the worse affected, the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) has called upon the two warring parties to consider the "specific needs" of the Muslims and Tamils.

"In situations of conflict, minority communities are often the last to be given access to aid and we hope this will not be the case in Sri Lanka," said Clive Baldwin, Head of International Advocacy in MRG.

Indeed, there were complaints that the Tamil refugees in Vaharai were not getting food supplies because the Sri Lankan army was blocking them.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website said on Friday, that the army had stopped a convoy of relief material carried by the Church of South India, at Mankerni in Batticaloa district.

However, reports from Mutur said that NGOs were having access to Mutur town, the scene of very heaving fighting last week.

NGO workers killed were Tamils

It is now revealed that the 17 local staff of the French aid agency Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger) who were "executed" by unidentified gunmen during the fighting in Mutur, were all Tamils barring one, who was a Muslim.

There were four women in the ill-fated group. All seemed to be young.

Their photos were published in the Sudar Oli Tamil daily on Friday.

The United Nations has called for an independent probe into the killing of the aid workers, which aid agencies described as a "dark chapter" in the history of their work in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Minister of Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Mahinda Samarasinghe, has promised an independent inquiry into this, if it is proved that there had been an "execution style" killing.