UN’s plea for access to Lankans

GENEVA: The United Nations pleaded today for access to Sri Lankans believed stranded in the northeast of the country where the government says it has defeated a three-decade insurgency by the LTTE.

The request came a day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Sri Lanka’s health minister for unfettered access to civilians in camps and near the battlefield, said UN spokeswoman Elena Ponomareva.

UN agencies said today the situation on the ground had yet to change. “The UN has no information about ill or injured civilians who may remain in the conflict zone,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for UN’s humanitarian operations. She said the UN or the international Red Cross needed to evacuate those who remained.

The Red Cross has appealed to be allowed inside the war zone but the government said it did not need help, according to Paul Castella, the head of the Sri Lanka office of the International Committee of the Red Cross.