U.S. prepares Sri Lanka relief effort

Jason Motlagh received a grant from the Pulitzer Center in 2008 to report from Sri Lanka. The following is an excerpt from Jason and Nicholas Kralev that was featured in the Washington Times on the US administration's efforts to faciliate a peaceful end to a seemingly endless conflict.

Civilians flee from the 'no fire zone.' Photo: Washington Times

The Obama administration said Tuesday that it is preparing a major relief effort for Sri Lanka amid expections that the nation's 26-year civil war will end within days - at a cost of tens of thousands of civilian lives.

The administration also called on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), whose forces are surrounded in eight square miles of swamp, to surrender peacefully and avoid further bloodshed.

"The conflict is at a decisive point, and we see the potential of major developments in the next 48 hours," Michael S. Owen, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters at the State Department.

Mr. Owen said the administration has urged both sides to show restraint and protect the civilians caught in the fighting.