US mulls military support to Lanka
Sri Lanka can look forward to US military assistance to crack down on
LTTE terrorism as the United States is now considering to lift the arms
embargo following the recent release of child soldiers by the Tamil
Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP).
The United States which has come down hard on terrorism, suspended
air and maritime surveillance assistance to Sri Lanka last year citing
two reasons - recruitment of child soldiers by the TMVP and human rights
US Ambassador Robert O. Blake told the Sunday Observer that there was
a possibility of resuming military assistance to the government to
defend the LTTE.
“US military assistance is currently suspended due to two provisions
in the US law. The first being child soldiers. The TMVP has released
over 50 child soldiers and this is a very good sign”, he said.
Blake said that the US had welcomed the move publicly and hope they
would release more.
According to UNICEF figures over 100 child soldiers were still in the
custody of the TMVP, he said.
“The US believes that we will be able to lift that particular
restriction and to continue to provide military assistance if the TMVP
releases more children”, he said adding that the United States is
working closely with the government to improve its human rights record
Blake said that US military assistance in the areas of air and
maritime surveillance has helped the government to detect LTTE arms
shipments in the territorial waters of the country.
The American Ambassador is positive that the US Millennium Challenge
Corporation, which de-listed Sri Lanka, would also make another decision
to consider to fund Sri Lanka again.
“Hence that is another reason that we encourage the government to
improve its record on human rights. This will enable us to cooperate
more with Sri Lanka”, he said.
Blake said that LTTE child conscription was done in a greater
magnitude and the number of children with the LTTE was 15 times more
than those who were in the custody of the TMVP. Quoting UNICEF figures,
he said that there would be over 1,600 child soldiers still in the hands
of the LTTE.
“This is a very serious concern and the US has joined the UNICEF and
other agencies urging the LTTE to release these children”, he said.
When asked whether there would be any change in Washington’s stand
with regard to the support to Sri Lanka if the US Presidency shifts from
the Republican to Democratic, he said that the main interest of the US
was to see an end to the national problem and the US approach to Sri
Lanka would remain unchanged.
“The US approach to Sri Lanka is generally a bi-partisan approach and
it would not be changed dramatically under Barack Obama or John McCain.
Either way the US will continue to have a strong and friendly
relationship with Sri Lanka”, he said.
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