UN chief announces Sri Lanka trip

GENEVA, May 19, 2009 (AFP) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he will visit Sri Lanka on Friday and called for immediate progress on reconciliation following the government’s declaration of victory over Tamil Tiger rebels. “We urgently need to treat the wounds of a war that has alienated the communities in the island for almost three decades,” Ban told journalists here.

“To aid this endeavour I will visit Sri Lanka this Friday May 22 to Saturday May 23,” he added.

Ban warned that there had to be swift progress on three “critical” areas: immediate humanitarian aid in the former conflict area, reconstruction, and sustanable political dialogue in Sri Lanka.

“The legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Tamil people and other minorities must be addressed,” Ban said.

“Progress on all three fronts must be in parallel and it must begin now,” he said, calling for “serious steps” to “reconciliation, rehabilitation.”