Ban: Sri Lanka must reach out to Tamils

May 23, 2009 at 11:44 AM
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VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, May 23 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Sri Lanka must try to heal the wounds of its just-ended civil war by reaching out to minority ethnic Tamils.

Speaking Saturday at the main government-run camp for refugees near Vavuniya, Ban said Sri Lanka must now show it can win the peace just as it has won the 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in which about 80,000 people are estimated to have been killed, the BBC reported.

"I was humbled by what I saw," Ban told reporters after touring the refugee camp, where 255,000 people displaced by government's final push against the LTTE are reported to be living. "It's time for Sri Lankans to heal the wounds and unite without regards for religious and ethnic identity."

Ban, the first senior world figure to visit Sri Lanka since Colombo declared it had ended the insurgency, said he would work with the government to allow more efficient distribution of humanitarian aid that critics say has been hampered by restrictions on relief aid personnel and vehicles.

"We will try to work hard to keep that promise realized," Ban told the BBC. "They need to be resettled as soon as possible."

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