Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UN holds 'urgent' Sri Lanka talks

By Charles Haviland - A senior United Nations official, Lynn Pascoe, is due to arrive in Sri Lanka for two days of talks on urgent matters.

The world body has been expressing concern at the slow pace of release of Tamil refugees.

Many are still detained in government-run camps four months after the end of the war.

The UN is sounding a note of urgency on Sri Lanka and these meetings may be well be tense.

Mr Pascoe, the UN's head of political affairs, will hold talks on "critical issues", the UN said.

"We're very concerned about the pace of progress," Mr Pascoe said in New York before leaving.

In the same breath he referred to agreements made by the government when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited in May, including ones on accountability for possible violation of human rights laws, and on the movement of Tamil refugees out of their camps.

The government is now letting more people return home but still detains many others.

It has also just rejected the idea of a European Union investigation into its rights record, saying: "We do not have human rights issues."

Mr Pascoe says he will also discuss Sri Lanka's decision to expel the spokesman for the UN Children's Fund for allegedly parroting Tamil Tiger propaganda, and will raise the continued detention of two Sri Lankan UN staff.

Last week a UN spokeswoman said they had initially been "disappeared" by the government in June and there were allegations that the authorities had mistreated them.

© BBC News

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