Top UN official in Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS, April 16, 2009 (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon has dispatched a top aide to Sri Lanka to try to ease the plight of tens of thousands of civilians trapped by fighting between government forces and Tamil separatists, a UN spokesman said Thursday. Farhan Haq told AFP that Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s chief staff, was in Colombo for a couple of days in a bid to alleviate the situation.

“The secretary-general is doing his utmost to alleviate the situation in Sri Lanka and high-level contacts were continuing to be pursued on that matter,” a UN statement said.

“The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not appear to have responded constructively in allowing civilians to leave,” Haq noted. “This is truly disappointing. Civilians must be allowed to leave the area of violence. They must not be used as targets of political or military designs.”

Sunday, Ban welcomed Sri Lanka’s announcement of a two-day pause in its offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, and said more aid would be sent to help civilians.

Calling it a “useful first step” towards a “peaceful and orderly end to the fighting,” Ban added however that the respite “is less than the full humanitarian pause of several days I had pressed for.”

The UN boss also appealed to t