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Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 01:07 UK

US warns of Sri Lankan violence

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

Robert Blake (file)
The absence of a power sharing deal has not impressed Robert Blake

A senior US diplomat has warned that the Sri Lankan government's failure to share power with the minority Tamils could lead to renewed violence.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told the BBC a delay in devolving powers might create new opportunities for the rebel Tamil Tigers to regroup.

Sri Lanka's government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers three months ago.

Mr Blake also urged Colombo to resettle swiftly the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by the war.

This would have a bearing on US aid for reconstruction and resettlement, he said.

Dialogue

The warning by the US assistant secretary of state is a clear sign that Western nations are getting increasingly frustrated with the delay in the political reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

It is very, very important for Sri Lanka to engage in their own dialogue with the Tamils not only inside Sri Lanka but also outside Sri Lanka
Robert Blake
US Assistant Secretary of State

There was optimism that the end of the conflict between the majority Sinhalese-led government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would pave the way for a power sharing agreement with the minority Tamils.

But the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, recently said any political solution could come only after his re-election, which may happen next year.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

The delay has not impressed many in the West, including Mr Blake.

"There is a possibility that they will alienate the Tamil community further, and again exacerbate the divisions and perhaps even give new opportunities for the LTTE to organise," he told the BBC.

"So, it is very, very important for Sri Lanka to engage in their own dialogue with the Tamils not only inside Sri Lanka but also outside Sri Lanka, and again to hasten the process of reconciliation," he added.

The senior US official also appealed for the rapid resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by the war and now confined to government-run camps in the north.

Manik Farm refugee camp (15 August 2009)
The Sri Lankan authorities say they do plan to let civilians return home

Mr Blake said the condition of these internally displaced people (IDPs) was linked with Washington's financial aid to Sri Lanka.

"Our ability to provide money for reconstruction and for resettlement and livelihood and other activities will depend a lot on the progress that Sri Lanka makes in terms of abiding by its commitment to resettle the IDPs as quickly as possible," he said.

"Secondly, on the progress it makes towards political reconciliation and devolution of power."

The Sri Lankan authorities say they do plan to let civilians return home, but must screen them first to identify rebel fighters.

Any reconciliation process, they say, should be approved by the majority and reaching a consensus on this issue takes time.



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