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US withdraws Lanka travel warning

world Updated: May 27, 2010 19:55 IST
Sutirtho patranobis

The US have lifted travel restrictions to Sri Lanka clearing the way for a further boost to the tourism industry and foreign investment in the island nation.

In its statement, the US state department noted that, "The Government of Sri Lanka declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 18, 2009. Since the war's declared end, the LTTE has not mounted any attacks in Colombo or elsewhere in Sri Lanka."

"The travel warning issued for Sri Lanka on November 19, 2009 has been cancelled, effective May 26, 2010," the statement said. "Department of State has cancelled the travel warning for Sri Lanka due to improvements in safety and security conditions throughout the country."

"This is something we have been looking forward to," tourism bureau chief Dileep Mudadeniya told AFP. "It will have a knock-on effect on (travel) insurance rates and also encourage more business travel from the West."

After the end of the war, many western countries have either scale down or totally done away with restrictions on travel to Sri Lanka. Some countries continue to warn their citizens against visiting former battle zones in the north, which could still be heavily mined.

The New York Times in January listed Sri Lanka as the number one destination to visit in 2010, citing the war's conclusion and Sri Lanka's historical sites, lush forest and broad beaches. National Geographic and the luxury living website also both gave Sri Lanka high rankings as a travel destination in 2010.

The state department announcement came two days before Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris - on a four-day visit to the US -- was scheduled to hold talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday.

Peiris had urged the US not to be one sided by focusing only on human rights issues when there are business and other opportunities in post-war Sri Lanka. "We are not in anyway resentful of the focus on human rights. That is understandable. We are not complaining about it," Peiris told a gathering in the US. "But we are making the point that the relationship should not be one-dimensional. There are many other things that Sri Lanka and the United States can do together," he said.