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International Community Urges Reconciliation in Sri Lanka


Members of the international community are urging the Sri Lankan government to move forward with reconciliation efforts following the end of fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with officials from the U.S, China and Russia, welcomed an end to the fighting. All of them called on the Sri Lankan government to address the concerns of the Tamil people and other minorities.

The Indian government has pledged more than $105 million in aid for the country's rehabilitation.

Sri Lanka's army chief said Tuesday troops have positively identified the body of Tamil Tiger rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran after recovering it from a battlefield.

In a televised address, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said his country finally has been "liberated" from terrorism after 26 years of civil war.

Mr. Rajapaksa also briefly spoke to ethnic Tamils in their language, saying the war was not waged against the Tamil people and that all must now live as equals.

Earlier, in a statement carried on the pro-rebel Tamilnet Web site, rebels insisted that Prabhakaran is still alive.

Sri Lankan television is broadcasting video of what appears to be Prabhakaran's body. The face is intact, with a clear resemblance to the rebel leader.

The footage also shows what is said to be Prabhakaran's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam identity card and his military tag. A Sri Lankan official, government minister and defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, says Prabhakaran's remains will be treated with dignity.

On Monday, the army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, declared an end to the country's conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels, putting the entire nation under government control for the first time since 1983.

The United Nations estimates up to 300,000 people have been displaced and about 6,500 civilians have died in the fighting since January.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling on the Sri Lankan government to allocate more land for construction of emergency shelter, water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross are demanding access to civilians in areas where fighting has taken place.

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