UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council expressed its "grave concern" on Wednesday over the "worsening" humanitarian crisis in northeastern Sri Lanka and condemned the rebel Tamil guerrillas for its acts of terrorism while urging the government to ensure the security of its people.
This was contained in a statement read to the press here by the rotating president of the UN Security Council for May, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, at the end of the closed-door council consultations on the humanitarian situation in northeastern Sri Lanka, where hundreds of civilians were reportedly killed in government troops' fighting against rebels in a narrow strip of land controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who has been fighting with the government forces since 1983.
The informal meeting came at the request of France, Britain and Austria, whose foreign ministers were at the UN last week appealing for action before more civilian lives were lost.
The 15-member council "express grave concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis in northeast Sri Lanka, in particular the reports of hundreds of civilian causalities in recent days, and call for urgent action by all parties to ensure the safety of civilians," said the statement.
Condemning the rebel LTTE, the council denounced its use of civilians as human shields and urged them to acknowledge the legitimate right of the government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism by laying down its arms and allowing the tens of thousands of civilians to leave the conflict zone.
Approximately 50,000 people are still trapped within three square kilometers -- smaller than the Central Park in New York City -- as the Sri Lankan military continues its use of heavy shelling and the rebels use civilians as human shields, reports said.
However, the Sri Lankan government denied using heavy artillery against the rebel group in the rebel-controlled strip of land, where the LTTE rebels are trapped along with tens of thousands of civilians, who reports said have become human shields.
The council "expressed its deep concern at the reports of continued use of heavy caliber weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians, and expects the government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitment in this regard."
Taking note of the steps already taken by the government to address the humanitarian situation, the council urged that further steps be taken to provide security of those displaced by the conflict and to cooperate with United Nations and Red Cross humanitarian workers helping those fleeing the conflict zone.
Mindful of the necessity "to find a long-term solution without the threat of violence," the council "underlines that the needs of all communities of Sri Lanka have to be addressed," the statement added.
British Ambassador to the UN John Sawers told reporters that the press statement, the "first official" document from the Security Council, underlines "the depth of concern" and is "an important step forward."
Speaking to reporters after the council adjourned, Austrian Ambassador to the UN Thomas Mayr-Harting said "We think it is important that a clear statement is made and the Security Council drew the attention to the long-term aspect."
The council meeting comes at the same time as certain European nations move for a special session of UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka. But on Monday, Sri Lanka's Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasing he said his country would not "consent to discuss it" and would instead ask for a vote which would defeat the motion.
On Wednesday U.S. President Barak Obama joined the chorus of those calling for Sri Lankan government to end the violence, and urged the government to "stop the indiscriminate shelling." His remarks came one day after a Time Magazine article accused him of "failing" to act.