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Secretary-General to dispatch UN relief team to Sri Lankan combat zone
UN News Centre
23 April 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced that he will immediately send a United Nations humanitarian team to the shrinking conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka, calling for the mission to be allowed into the area as soon as possible.

The dispatch of the team to the five square-mile pocket of land where fighting rages between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was agreed upon recently between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mr. Bans envoy, Vijay Nambiar, who also serves as his Chef de Cabinet.

The purpose of the team will be to assess the situation and provide assistance to civilians, the Secretary-General told reporters today in Brussels. ()

Yesterdays statement, read out by Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the Councils rotating monthly presidency, also strongly condemned the LTTEs use of civilians as human shields and its actions that block people from leaving the conflict area.

The 15-member body also appealed to the Tamil rebels to enounce terrorism, allow UN-assisted evacuation of remaining civilians in the conflict area and join the political process of dialogue in order to put an end to the conflict. Today, a senior UN relief official put the number of civilians still trapped in the conflict zone in the Vanni region at 50,000.

Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that the Government has reported that 103,000 people have left the area and are in transit to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) e hope that those numbers are accurate, but the world body cannot verify them, she said at a press briefing in New York. ()

She emphasized that both the Government and LTTE are violating international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians, with heavy weapons being used in the so-called no-fire zone and the LTTE preventing people from fleeing the ery horrendous situation in the region. ()

Many of those who escaped conflict ere forced from their homes more than a year ago, and it is something of a miracle that they have survived such a terrible ordeal, said Neil Buhne. e need to ensure that no more lives are lost by meeting their immediate needs, and beyond that to help them get back on their feet, so that they can eventually return to their homes.r ()

Secretary General Ban ki-Moons Full Statement:

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