The head of the United Nations is praising Sri Lanka's efforts to care
for hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced in the final months of
fighting in the country's recently ended civil war. But he also says it
is not enough.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other top officials Saturday in Kandy.
He warned during a news conference (with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama) that unless the government can reconcile with the country's Tamil minority "history could repeat itself."
The U.N. chief also called for unrestricted access to displacement camps that are now home to almost 300,000 ethnic Tamil refugees.
Earlier, Mr. Ban visited families and an open-air clinic at the crowded Manik Farm camp, near Vavuniya. It is the north's largest displacement camp, where about 220,000 people are living in tents, heavily guarded by soldiers and surrounded by barbed wire.
A VOA correspondent (Steve Herman) on the trip says Mr. Ban spoke to a young girl with a leg wound, who complained that she had been unable to get proper medical care.
Mr. Ban's helicopter also flew low over the former war zone, where he could see what the VOA reporter described as "a scene of devastation."
The secretary-general is the highest-level international visitor to tour the war-ravaged north since the president declared victory over Tamil Tiger rebels Monday after 26 years of war.
Aid agencies have complained that the government is restricting their access to the displacement camps.
U.N. officials estimate that more 7,000 civilians were killed and many more wounded during the final months of the war. The U.N. says the 25-year conflict has resulted in up to 100,000 deaths.
During Mr. Ban's visit to Kandy, journalists asked about whether any war crimes were committed during the Sri Lankan military's final push to defeat the Tamil rebels.