UN urges protection of civilians in strife-torn Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS, May 13, 2009 (AFP) – The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged the warring sides in Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of civilians, voicing “grave concern’ at the “worsening humanitarian crisis” there. It unanimously adopted a non-binding statement that expressed “grave concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis in northeast Sri Lanka, in particular the reports of hundreds of civilian casualties in recent days.”

The statement also called “for urgent action by all parties to ensure the safety of civilians.”

“For the first time, a text is formally adopted to express our concern over the situation, which explains the absolute condemnation of the LTTE (rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam),” France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, one of the three sponsors of text, said.

But he stressed that the text also “asks the Sri Lankan government to honor its commitment not use heavy weapons in heavily populated areas.”

Council members stressed that it was extremely important that UN chief Ban Ki-moon be fully engaged in the matter, Ripert said, adding that the secretary general would likely announce a visit to the strife-torn Indian Ocean island.

The 15-member-council stro