US airs concern on Sri Lanka, mum on Swedish row

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2009 (AFP) – The United States voiced concern Tuesday about reports of continued heavy shelling in Sri Lanka but stayed out of a row over the Swedish foreign minister’s failure to receive a visa for the island.

“I’m not familiar with the circumstances surrounding this visa issue, and have to refer you to the Sri Lankan government or the Swedish government for more details on that,” Wood said.

The European Union said Sri Lanka made a “grave mistake” by not letting in Bildt and warned of repercussions. Sweden recalled its ambassador from Colombo for consultations.

Sri Lanka has pledged to end air strikes and attacks using heavy weapons, while the rebel Tamil Tigers — making a last stand on a narrow strip of land — have called a unilateral cease-fire.

But a website supportive of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) accused government forces of pounding civilians.

“We’re still very concerned about … unconfirmed reports that heavy shelling has continued in the conflict zone,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

“We want to make sure that the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE do their utmost to protect civilians in the conflict area,” he said. “They