Top UN official to visit Sri Lanka as conflict deepens

Aug 5, 2007 (AFP) – A top UN official is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka this week to discuss the island’s deepening Tamil separatist conflict and the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire, officials said Sunday. John Holmes, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, will hold talks with Sri Lankan leaders and also travel to the embattled northern and eastern regions, officials said.

Sri Lankan foreign ministry officials said that he will travel to the Jaffna peninsula in the north and the district of Batticaloa where security forces last month wrested control over the final bastion of the Tiger rebels.

“The visit is aimed at getting a first hand assessment of the situation,” and improving “humanitarian access to the affected areas,” an aid official said, adding that Holmes, however, will not travel to the rebel-held Wanni region.

Holmes, who arrives Monday for four days, is also scheduled to attend a remembrance ceremony for 17 aid workers of the French charity, ACF or Action Against Hunger, killed a year ago by unidentified gunmen in the restive north-east of the island.

Nordic truce monitors have blamed government forces for the killing, a charge