AP Interview: Annan Urges Sri Lankans To Reconcile

By: Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Email
By: Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Email

NEW YORK (AP) - Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had some advice Thursday for Sri Lanka's government: Reach out and reconcile with the Tamil minority and heal the wounds from the 25-year civil war.

Annan made his remarks in a wide-ranging interview Thursday, a day before his successor, Ban Ki-moon, heads to Sri Lanka to meet with officials and visit camps for some of the 280,000 people displaced by the government's offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The government in Sri Lanka must understand that military victory is not the end, that they need to reach out and reconcile and heal the nation," Annan said. "If they do not, there will be residual problems that will create difficulties for them in the future."

In addition to his 10 years of dealing with global conflicts as U.N. secretary-general, Annan helped broker an end to postelection violence in Kenya a year and a half ago.

He said he was in constant touch with Kenya's leaders "to work with them to implement the reform program they agreed on so that we can ensure that Kenya is put on solid footing and we do not see a repeat of what happened at the end of 2007."

Annan stressed that mediation and reconciliation are "a long-term process, and you have to stick with it and ensure you put in a solution or a settlement that will stand the test of time."

The former U.N. chief was recently named Columbia University's first Global Fellow and was in New York for meetings with President Lee Bollinger and a number of professors. He said he will take up the new post "in the near future" and hopes "to bring some practical experience to play" on issues from climate change to the green revolution in Africa.

Annan chairs the Africa Progress Panel which he said encourages the Group of Eight major industrialized nations to honor the pledges they made to dramatically increase aid to Africa - and encourages African leaders to honor their commitment to improve governance and fight corruption.

He also chairs the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is working to dramatically increase Africa's food production with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

"There is a lot happening on the green revolution where we are working with farmers and governments," Annan said. "The green revolution in Africa is much more complicated than the green revolution in Latin America or Asia because those were monocultures where it was maize or rice. But in Africa, you have a whole variety from sorghum to rice to cassava, to yams."

Asked about former U.S. president Bill Clinton's new job as a U.N. special envoy in Haiti, Annan said: "I think he has the capacity to make a great contribution. He has been involved in Haiti for quite a while and he has the capacity to mobilize resources - human and material - to help that poor country."

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