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US, UK call for temporary ceasefire

The United States and UK called for a temporary ceasefire in the ongoing war between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Feb 04, 2009 18:34 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The United States and UK on Wednesday called for a temporary ceasefire in the ongoing war between the Sri Lankan army (SLA) and the LTTE.

A joint statement issued by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in Washington called on ``both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to agree to a temporary no-fire period. Both sides need to allow civilians and wounded to leave the conflict area and to grant access for humanitarian agencies.''

They affirmed their insistence on a political resolution to this longstanding conflict. ``The time to resume political discussions is now and we will continue to work with the Tokyo Co-Chairs, the Sri Lankan government, and the UN to facilitate such a process,'' the statement said.

Tthe Tokyo Co-Chairs (Norway, Japan, US and EU) have jointly expressed their great concern about the plight of thousands of internally displaced persons trapped by fighting in northern Sri Lanka.

The Co-Chairs have called on the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka not to fire out of or into the no-fire zone established by the Government.

The statements came even as the UN said on Wednesday that cluster bombs have hit one of the last functioning hospitals in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu where the rebels are locked in, what some say, the final battle with the SLA.

``Cluster bombs have hit a hospital in the Wanni region,'' UN spokesperson Gordon Weiss said.

The attack came less than two days after the government asked all civilians to enter the demarcated 'safety zone' as soon as possible, saying otherwise their security could not be guaranteed.

Cluster bombs are air-dropped or ground-launched munitions that eject smaller sub munitions: a cluster of little bombs. The most common types are intended to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles. Rights and anti-war organisations the world over have called for a ban on cluster bombs because of the devastation the bombs leave behind, killing and maiming people for life.

``We hold the gravest fears for the safety of our staff and their families," Weiss said.

On Sunday, the civil hospital in Pudukudiyyiruppu in Tigers-controlled area was shelled killing 12 patients and injuring dozens.

An International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson later said patients from the hospital have been shifted to safer areas.

``We have helped the hospital authorities and staff to move the patients, equipment and available vehicles to a safer location. All people in the area and the government officials present in the area also have vacated the place,'' the spokesperson told news agencies.