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US flies in special envoy to push for truce in Lanka

Bush Admn sends Steven Mann to ask SL and LTTE to return to the negotiating table, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2006 02:08 IST

The United States on Thursday sent a special envoy to Colombo to ask the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to immediately cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table.

The Bush Administration sent Steven Mann, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, to deliver the message to President Mahinda Rajapaksa personally.

It was an "unexpected" trip, Mann told the media after meeting the President for two hours.

This was because the US was "deeply concerned" about the hostilities in Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of combatants and civilians had been killed and more than 50,000 civilians displaced in August alone.

Ambassador Mann said that his meeting with the Sri Lankan President and his aides were "detailed" and that the responses he got from the government side were "thoughtful".

Mann said that he told the Sri Lankan side that continuation of the current fighting would only push back the prospect of peace and would benefit no one.

The Sri Lankan government side explained their political and military compulsions which, according to Mann, showed considerable preparation on their part.

Spotlight on the LTTE as well

The US envoy emphasized that the "spotlight" was on the LTTE also because there were two parties in this conflict.

He said that the LTTE would have to abjure violence and return to the negotiating table immediately.

Till it did so, it would remain in the US list of foreign terrorist organisations, he said.

Ambassador Mann called for a "political compromise" on the part of both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

He said that US backed a solution within a united Sri Lanka with a guarantee for the legitimate rights of the Tamil minority and human and democratic rights for all Sri Lankans.

He reiterated full US support for the Norwegian peace envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer and the Nordic truce monitors.

Mann called upon the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that humanitarian norms were maintained by the armed forces even in combat.

He urged the government to "respect" the Non-Governmental Organisations for the good work they were doing in the conflict areas.

First Published: Aug 18, 2006 02:01 IST