Ambassador Rice: Thank you all very much and I want to apologize at the outset. I’m not going to be able to stay to take questions; I’m late to something else.
I had the opportunity to spend some time at length with a number of you yesterday, and I just wanted to share with you briefly what we learned and in the briefing here, and my government’s view of this very dire situation.
We had an extensive, and I think very helpful elaboration by Mr. Nambiar of the situation on the ground, his diplomatic efforts, and then the Ambassador of Sri Lanka shared his government’s perspective. I spoke on behalf of the United States to underscore just how grave we view this situation. It is dire and we are deeply concerned. We condemn the action by the LTTE to hold thousands of innocent civilians hostage in this so-called safe zone. We think that it is absolutely imperative that both sides cease the fighting and the heavy shelling that is putting many thousands of civilians in immediate danger.
We obviously welcome the fact that a number of—that many thousand civilians have been able to leave in recent days from the safe zone, but we are frankly appalled by the fact that many who have been able to leave are unable to receive life-saving treatment and assistance in the internally displaced areas and camps that they are going to. and we call on the government not only to cease the shelling and the offensive military action, just as we call on the LLTE to do the same, but we call on the government to uphold its responsibility to provide support and assistance and access to the IDPs who are streaming into hospitals and camps. The fact that the United Nations, that ICRC, that the media do not have adequate access to these individuals is unacceptable and is of grave concern.
We also insist that both sides uphold all of the principles of international humanitarian law and the fact that both sides have been shooting at civilians as they leave these—leave the safe zone is one gross manifestation of the apparent violation of international humanitarian law. So with that, I will allow my colleagues to elaborate and we do look forward to the President of the Council issuing a statement on behalf of all of us. Thank you all.