White House urges immediate Sri Lanka ceasefire

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2009 (AFP) – The White House on Friday urged an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and voiced deep concerns over alleged violations of international humanitarian law. It was the first statement by President Barack Obama’s White House on Sri Lanka as concerns grow for the fate of thousands of people trapped in a small strip of jungle.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the plight of innocent civilians caught up in the conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers and the mounting death toll,” the White House said.

“We call on both sides to stop fighting immediately and allow civilians to safely leave the combat zone,” it said.

The White House urged Sri Lanka to halt shelling in a designated safe zone and allow aid groups and journalists to see civilians who have escaped.

“We call on both sides to strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. We are very concerned about reports of violations, and take these allegations very seriously,” it said.

Sri Lanka’s military says it is close to defeating the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, who launched a bloody campaign in 1972 to create a separat