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US backs political settlement, war on LTTE

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse (R) receives Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Steven Mann in Colombo, 09 March 2007. The US official was holding discussions on the island's faltering peace process, human rights and access to conflict areas with, the US embassay said at the end of the two-day visit.
Photo:SUDATH SILVA/AFP/Getty Images
The United States stressed the need for power sharing in Sri Lanka as a solution to the long standing conflict while reiterating concerns over the negative impact the fighting has had on the human rights situation in the country.
Steven R. Mann, the visiting Principal Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs said Washington will fully back Sri Lanka's battle against terrorism but said the island's conflict needs to be resolved politically.
Mr. Mann said Washington was fully appreciative of the fact that the Sri Lankan government had a difficult task in fighting terrorism while pursuing a political solution to the dragging conflict, reported the Daily News.
Mr. Mann was sent by President George W. Bush following a request made by the US Congress to look at alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Mann also said the US government took the issue of human rights violations very seriously and added this was one of the most important topics of discussion between him and the President.
 “Human rights matters greatly to the United States. In the practical circumstances of Sri Lanka it is indelibly clear to us that strong consistent respect for human rights must be an element of successful peaceful resolution to the conflict,” he said.
Mr. Mann who was on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka met President Mahinda Rajapakse, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickemesinghe and several senior government officials and civil society groups during his stay.
“It is an important opportunity that stands before Sri Lanka and it is the hope of the United States that the leaders of Sri Lanka will seize the chance to reach a consensus agreement on power sharing that meets the legitimate aspirations of all the country’s people,” Mr. Mann said.
The United States believed that the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) was the best platform to arrive at a broad political consensus to end the country’s ethnic problem, Mr. Mann said.
At a news briefing Mr. Mann said it was time to seize the opportunity available for a broad consensus with proposals put forward by opposition political parties as well as the Government to the APRC.
The US envoy further noted that America’s stand on the LTTE, which had been listed as a terrorist outfit since 1997 remains the same, but noted that the efforts on looking at the whole LTTE issue wrests on pressing towards a peaceful political solution.
Addressing the media after his meeting with President Rajapakse and government officials including Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, Mr. Mann said: “When I call for a peaceful political settlement this is a powerful message to the LTTE as well as the government to engage seriously in this type of peace negotiation.”
“I have looked at the data and institutions estimate that the conflict has held back GDP growth by 2-3 percent per year. And over two decades this constant loss of economic opportunity has resulted in an enormous foregone opportunity of prosperity that should have benefited all Sri Lankans,” he added.
Mr. Mann said a resolution to the conflict would unlock even greater potential growth in the North and the East and contribute towards addressing the economic aspirations of all communities island wide and make Sri Lanka an even more attractive destination for trade and investment.
Last week the US state department came down hard on both the Government and the LTTE for large scale human rights abuses last year, most notably since the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement and the failed assassination attempt on Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
 “The government's respect for the human rights of its citizens declined due in part to the breakdown of the [Ceasefire Agreement],” the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor stated in its 2006 country report on Sri Lanka.
“Credible sources reported human rights problems, including unlawful killings by government agents, high profile killings by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings by paramilitary forces associated with the government and the LTTE, and disappearances,” the report said.
Rights groups, including the New York based Human Rights Watch, are to discuss the setting up of an international human rights monitoring mission in the country under UN auspices at the fourth UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session.
Asked if the US supports the establishment of an international monitoring mission in Sri Lanka Mr. Mann said he was not clear on how such a mission will operate with the SLMM and an international presidential commission of inquiry already in place.
Meanwhile, the Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) warned Mr. Mann that no one had the right to violate the sovereignty of Sri Lanka at any time.
“Sri Lanka may be a poor nation but no rich country will be able to buy its sovereignty,” JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa said.

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