Obama presses Sri Lankan gov't to alleviate humanitarian crisis
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Sri Lankan government on Wednesday to alleviate humanitarian crisis in the country by taking urgent action, warning that the crisis could turn into a catastrophe otherwise, Xinhua reported.
"I've been increasingly saddened by the desperate news in recent days," the president told reporters in the White House, referring to the conflict between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.
Reports here said hundreds of civilians have been killed during the weekend fighting, and the fighting has intensified in the conflict area that the International Committee of the Red Cross ( ICRC) can not get into for carrying out assistance.
Warning the humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe, President Obama said the LTTE must "lay down their arms and let civilians go," and stop using civilians as human shields, as well as recruiting civilians as fighters.
But the president, like his administration officials have reiterated recently on the Sri Lankan situation, exerted more pressure on the Sri Lankan government, asking Colombo to take urgent steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
"First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals. The government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone," said Obama.
"Second, the government should give United Nations' humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives," he said.
"The government should also allow the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to nearly 190,000 displaced people within Sri Lanka so that they can receive additional support that they need," he added.
The LTTE, who has waged a violent campaign for decades for an independent country in the north and east of Sri Lanka, has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and some 30 other countries.
The violent conflict between the Sri Lankan government forces and the LTTE militants has claimed some 70,000 lives since 1983.