COLOMBO, March 13 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Sri Lanka is now on the verge of defeating terrorism, and that this presented a great opportunity to restore peace, leading to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country, according to a statement issued by Sri Lanka's presidential office on Friday.
She made the remarks when speaking to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse by telephone Friday evening, said the statement.
Hillary Clinton initially expressed her condolences for those killed in the terrorist attack at Akuressa that happened Tuesday and stated that terrorists should not be permitted to destroy the lives of people in such a manner.
"Speaking on current developments, Mrs. Clinton appreciated the assurances given by Defense Secretary that civilians would not be subjected to any attacks by the military, stating the United States looked forward to working with Sri Lanka once the current conflict ends," said the statement.
Rajapakse said there were about 50,000 to 70,000 people still remaining in a very small area held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), where the LTTE was preventing the people leaving for safety outside.
The Government hoped to clear the LTTE from this enclave within the next few days, the president told Hillary.
He also said the people who had managed to come over to government held areas were being looked after in welfare villages. The government was regularly sending food and medicines to all persons in the affected areas, including those held by the LTTE, with the assistance of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and the World Food Program.
Rajapakse told Hillary that reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north would start as soon as the fighting ended there.
He also told Hillary that the government was prepared to hold elections to local government bodies in Jaffna as soon as possible, and that he looked forward to working with the elected representatives of the people of the north in the near future.
Hillary said she was thankful that the long conflict in Sri Lanka was coming to an end, and that the United States looked forward to working with Sri Lanka in the building of peace, according to the statement.
The LTTE began to rebel against the government to set up a separate homeland for the minority in the north and east in the mid-1980s, based on claims that the minority Tamils were being discriminated by the majority Sinhalese dominated governments.
More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict since the mid-1980s.