Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said the clarification given by the U.S. State Department on Monday exonerating the security forces from charge of using rape as a weapon during the 34 month Eelam War IV was a “victory” for the island nation.

At a ruling party election rally in the run up to the Southern Provincial Council (SPC), scheduled on Saturday, Mr. Rajapaksa referred to the raging controversy generated by a statement made by U..S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United Nations Security Council last week and noted that anybody could make a mistake.

In a letter addressed to Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama by Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department on Monday had said, “In the most recent phase of the conflict, from 2006 to 2009 ... we have not received reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tools of war, as they clearly have in other conflict area around the world.”

Mr. Rajapaksa told the gathering that it was unfortunate that a series of such accusations against the military since they liberated the country from terrorism were local in origin and maintained that certain media, NGOs and politicians with vested interests were behind these allegations.

Courtesy call

In another development, U.S. envoy to Sri Lanka, Patricia A. Butenis paid a courtesy call on Secretary Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “A cordial discussion was held between the two officials at the Ministry of Defence,” said a government statement.

Meanwhile, visiting UK Development Minister Mike Foster after a tour of the camps of the war displaced in the north said freedom of movement is critical if a humanitarian crisis is to be averted.

A statement by the British mission here said Mr. Foster voiced concern about the impact that heavy rains, due to hit the north of the country from mid-October to December, will have on the 2,60,000 civilians housed in the government run relief camps.

“Mike Foster added that the U.K. is assisting civilian returns through supporting de-mining and transportation of civilians back to their home areas but that progress on returning civilians to date had been disappointing,” it said.

He confirmed that the U.K. is holding £4.8 million and is ready to provide further support to help Colombo meet its commitment to release the majority of civilians from the camps before the end of the year.

Closed camps

At the same time, he insisted that the U.K. funding could not support people simply being transferred from existing “closed” camps – which detain civilians for long periods of time — to new closed camps.

“Many IDPs have friends and relatives to whom they should be allowed to go to, as an interim measure. For this reason, he confirmed that once the critical monsoon season was over, the U.K. would only fund life-saving emergency interventions in the existing ‘closed’ camps,” said the statement.

Mr. Foster arrived here on Tuesday for a two-day visit on the invitation of Sri Lanka. He would meet key stakeholders in the government, U.N. agencies, NGOs and others.

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