U.N. Chief Visits Sri Lanka; Calls for Reconciliation

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who toured Sri Lanka's largest refugee camp on Saturday said he was "humbled" by what he saw.

The U.N. leader arrived in the war-torn island nation on Friday to assess the humanitarian situation and take urgent action to facilitate the flow of aid.

The visit comes just days after the Sri Lankan government declared victory over the LTTE. The war has left over 265,000 people, including an estimated 80,000 children, in relief camps.

According to the United Nations, the civil war has killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people since it began in 1983.

On his way to Sri Lanka, the secretary general said his first priority was to obtain full access for U.N. agencies and relief groups to aid those who desperately need humanitarian assistance.

"I know that there are more than 300,000 displaced persons who are badly in need of humanitarian assistance – food, water and sanitation," he said. "Now that the long decades of conflict are over, it is time for Sri Lankans to heal the wounds and unite without regards to ethnic and religious identity."

Ban affirmed that the United Nations would reunite the Tamil families affected by the war and integrate the society.

"I want to help reconcile Sri Lanka and its people," he said.

Early Saturday morning after talks with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, the international leader visited the Menik Farm which houses over 180,000 displaced civilians.

"They need to be resettled as soon as possible," Ban said.

Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, expressed shock as he was flown over the war zone where he saw a scene of mass devastation.

Trees were burned, vehicles were charred and tent camps were seen destroyed, he said.

"We were not able to see any civilians. What was truly striking was almost the total absence of human habitation ... it was almost eerie,'' he said.

Nambiar hopes the "secretary general's visit can help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans."

The U.N. Human Rights Council will meet next week on Sri Lanka to initiate an investigation.

Ban said "wherever there are serious violations of human rights as well as international humanitarian law, proper investigation should be instituted."