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Resettlement of displaced Tamils promised

May 21, 2009 at 10:39 PM   |   Comments

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 21 (UPI) -- Sri Lanka says it has drawn up a six-month plan to resettle the more than 275,000 Tamils displaced in the latest military campaign against Tamil rebels.

A statement issued Thursday after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met with visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said the Sri Lankan government intends "to dismantle the welfare villages at the earliest and outlined a 180-day plan to resettle the bulk of (internally displaced persons) to their original places of habitation."

The "welfare villages" refer to refugee camps.

The statement, carried on the Sri Lankan government Web site, said India committed to help get rid of landmines and to rebuild civil infrastructure and houses."

Menon was accompanied by M.K. Narayanan, India's national security adviser. India gives considerable attention to events in Sri Lanka because of the island nation's proximity in the strategic Indian Ocean.

The statement said both countries agreed the time was opportune to also focus on "reconciliation, including a permanent political solution in Sri Lanka."

The Tamil Tigers, as the defeated rebels were known, had waged a 26-year-long battle for a separate homeland for the Tamil-speaking minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Separately Thursday, Rajapapaksa said his government seeks to "embrace all of our people as members of a single nation."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday called Rajapaksa to urge that he seek political reconciliation, the Voice of America reported.

VOA said U.S. officials also want speedy resettlement of what it said was nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians.

The report said Clinton's telephone call also was emphasize that Tamils should be included in an post-conflict power sharing.

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