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US, UK seek temporary 'no-fire period' in Sri Lanka

February 04, 2009 10:13 IST

Concerned over the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, United States and Britain have asked both the island nation and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to agree to a 'temporary no-fire period' to allow civilians and the wounded to leave the conflict zone.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also called for a political resolution to the decades-old ethnic conflict in the country.

"The time to resume political discussions is now," the two leaders said in a joint statement after Miliband met Clinton in Washington on Tuesday.

This was the first meeting between the two after Clinton became the Secretary of State. The leaders urged both 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," the joint statement said. "We join the Co-Chairs and call on the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka not to fire out of or into the safe zone established by the government or in the vicinity of the PTK hospital (or any other medical structure), where more than 500 patients are receiving care and many hundreds more have sought refuge," the statement said.

Hundreds of thousands of hapless civilians are caught in the crossfire between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE in north of the island. "We also call on both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate
to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, and ensure the safety of aid and medical workers," it said.

Expressing 'serious concern' over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka caused by ongoing hostilities, Clinton and Miliband "affirmed their insistence on a political resolution to this longstanding conflict".

The joint statement said US and Britain would continue to work with the Tokyo Co-Chairs, the Sri Lankan government, and the UN to facilitate political resolution to the longstanding conflict in the country.

The two leaders welcomed the statement by the Tokyo Co-Chairs (Norway, Japan, US and EU) jointly expressing their great concern about the plight of thousands of internally displaced persons trapped by fighting in northern Sri Lanka.

The LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka must respect the international law of armed conflict, Clinton and Miliband said in the statement.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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