US calls for reconciliation, access to refugee camps

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2009 (AFP) – The United States pressed Sri lanka Thursday to lift restrictions on access to refugee camps in a strip of land where government forces this week crushed a three-decade-old Tamil insurgency.

“We urge the government to allow the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN immediate access … to the former conflict area … to assess the needs and welfare of the injured in the area,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

Kelly told reporters the organizations should be given “full and unhindered access” to the camps housing people displaced by the war.

He said the end of the conflict presents a new opportunity for reconciliation and the making of a “democratic and tolerant Sri Lanka.”

“And we believe the Sri Lankan government must win the peace by focusing on power-sharing arrangements with the Tamil and other minorities,” the spokesman said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conveyed that message Thursday in a phone call to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, a State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Clinton also underscored the need to promote reconciliation between the Singhalese majority and the country’