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DATE=11/30/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=U-N-H-C-R / SRI LANKA (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256665 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The U-N Refugee Agency, U-N-H-C-R, says it is negotiating a local cease-fire in northern Sri Lanka's Madhu area to enable thousands of displaced people to return to their villages. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports the cease-fire is being negotiated with the help of local religious groups who are sheltering civilians who have been displaced by fighting between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government soldiers. TEXT: The refugee agency says it managed to deliver a convoy of food aid and shelter material to thousands of displaced people in Madhu on Sunday. It says aid workers were able to reach the besieged civilian population after negotiating an agreement granting limited humanitarian access to Madhu. The agreement was sealed after talks with both Sri Lankan authorities and Tamil Tiger rebels. U-N-H-C-R spokesman Jacques Franquin says this was the first time aid has reached Madhu since November 21st. That is when intensified fighting in the area left 40 civilians dead. /// FRANQUIN ACT ONE /// Our purpose is not to interfere in this war, but, at least to have access to the civilian population. This means that what we have now negotiated with the authorities and the Tamil Tigers was to be able to cross the front line and to bring humanitarian assistance to people. /// END ACT /// Mr. Franquin says the refugee agency was forced to withdraw its staff and close its office in Madhu after the November 21st attack. He says about 10-thousand people have sought refuge in a Madhu church complex. And he says conditions at this overcrowded church facility are abysmal. /// FRANQUIN ACT TWO /// Access to water and sanitation is extremely difficult, and that's why we are negotiating now to be able to allow those people to return to their villages, which are on the front line. So we are negotiating now a kind of cease-fire which would allow people to return. /// END ACT /// Mr. Franquin says until it becomes possible for the displaced people to return home, it is important that aid workers be allowed to bring them food and other relief supplies on a regular basis. (Signed) NEB/LS/JWH/WTW 30-Nov-1999 11:02 AM EDT (30-Nov-1999 1602 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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