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UN political chief arrives in Sri Lanka for talks on displaced, reconciliation

16 September 2009 – The United Nations’ top political official arrived in Sri Lanka today to discuss resettlement, political reconciliation and accountability for alleged human rights violations in the island nation where Government forces defeated Tamil separatists in May after a decades-long conflict.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, who is scheduled to meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday, will tomorrow visit camps in the north, which are housing over 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Mr. Ban and Mr. Rajapaksa agreed on the mission during a telephone conversation on Monday, after which Mr. Pascoe told reporters: “We are very concerned about the pace of progress.”

Mr. Pascoe recalled Mr. Ban’s visit to the South Asian country in May, shortly after the end of the conflict.

“The Secretary-General was there, and a series of commitments was made… including on the movement of people out of camps and including an eventual political process and some kind of accountability mechanism,” he said.

He added that he also intended to discuss the continued detention of two UN staff members, and the decision by the Sri Lankan authorities to expel UNICEF spokesman James Elder.

Mr. Pascoe said Mr. Ban and Mr. Rajapaksa had spoken “quite openly and straightforwardly about what should or should not be done” and he would “work from where we are on what are critical issues out there.”

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