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Cablegate: Action Request: Demining Assistance For

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000003

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, PM, PM/HDP

NSC FOR E. MILLARD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PARM PHUM PREF EAID CE LTTE
SUBJECT: ACTION REQUEST: Demining assistance for
Sri Lanka

Refs: (A) Colombo-SA/INS 01/02/03 Fax

- (B) 02 Colombo 2022, and previous

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified --
Please handle accordingly. Message contains an
**ACTION REQUEST** -- Please see Para 8.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Mines/UXO are a serious problem in
Sri Lanka. After a very successful stint, the U.S.-
sponsored QRDF program ended operations in late 2002.
Mission has recently learned that a follow-on demining
program involving DoD-run training has been postponed.
We request that Washington continue to push hard for the
implementation of this program. We also request that
Department examine putting in place other programs, such
as the Marshall Legacy Institute's Mine Dog Program. We
believe strongly that demining reinforces U.S. policy
goals in Sri Lanka, and request that Department initiate
a bottom-up review of how we can re-establish our
presence in this key area ASAP. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) SCOPE OF PROBLEM: Sri Lanka has a serious
mine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem. According to
UNDP estimates, there are an estimated 100-150,000 mines
in Jaffna. There also could be up to 400,000 mines in
the Wanni region in the north, which is controlled by
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The degree
of the problem in the east is not clear, but there are
believed to be some mines and significant UXO. The UN
estimates that 10-20 Sri Lankans are killed or injured
in mine/UXO accidents each month. There are fears that
these figures could spike due to the steady return of
displaced persons (IDP's) to points of origin in the
north and east. (Note: Since the peace process began
in December 2001, over 230,000 IDP's have returned to
their home areas and the figure continues to surge
upwards.)

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4. (U) U.S. EFFORTS: After approximately seven months
of operation, the U.S.-sponsored Quick Reaction Demining
Force (QRDF) wrapped up its work in Jaffna in late
October 2002. At the completion of its operations, the
QRDF had cleared to international humanitarian demining
standards approximately 122,000 square meters, and
removed 980 mines and 42 pieces of UXO. As reviewed in
Ref B, the QRDF effort received widespread acclaim in
Sri Lanka. While performing practical work that is
allowing for the safe return of displaced persons to
demined areas, the QRDF became a symbol of our support
for the GSL's peace initiative and garnered highly
positive press coverage for the U.S.

5. (SBU) The QRDF program was especially impressive in
light of the fact that other donors have been slow to
assist Sri Lanka, mainly because the GSL has not signed
the Ottawa Convention banning the use of mines. While
showing some signs of life of late, the UN program has
yet to get off the ground in any significant way. In
the meantime, the GSL and LTTE are implementing demining
programs, but neither side is well-trained nor capable
of clearing land to international humanitarian demining
standards.

6. (SBU) NEXT STEPS: With the QRDF's departure, the
next step in U.S. demining assistance was supposed to be
a large-scale DoD-run training program for Sri Lankan
military personnel and civilians, which was publicly
slated to start as early as January 2003. The Sri
Lankan government had signed off on this program and was
looking forward to its start-up. We now understand,
however, that implementation of this program has been
postponed until later this year because personnel
resources are needed elsewhere. While Mission
understands there are other pressing needs
internationally, Mission requests that Department
continue to push hard for the implementation of the DoD-
run program as soon as possible.

7. (U) Mission also requests that Washington examine
putting in place other demining programs, such as the
Mine Detection Dog Partnership Program proposed by the
Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI). MLI President Perry
Baltimore recently visited Sri Lanka and discussed his
organization's proposed program with Mission, and
government and international organization
representatives. MLI's proposal seemed extremely
sensible and was very well-received. (Note: Mission
has sent SA/INS a fax containing MLI's latest update on
its proposal.) In addition to the MLI proposal, we
request that Department review other possible demining
programs that could be implemented in Sri Lanka in short
order -- and at least in the interim until the DoD-run
training program is up-and-running.

8. (SBU) COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST: We believe
strongly that demining reinforces our foreign and
humanitarian policy goals in Sri Lanka by providing
"quick impact" support for the peace process. Along the
lines set out in Paras 6-7, we request that Department
initiate a bottom-up review of how the U.S. can re-
establish a presence in this key area ASAP. We would
like to brief the GSL very soon on U.S. plans and would
appreciate a response on what is feasible by January 15.
END COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST.

9. (U) Minimize considered.

WILLS

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