Senior UN official to visit Sri Lanka after anti-Muslim riots

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman will visit Sri Lanka this week, the UN spokesman said Tuesday, after anti-Muslim riots prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

Feltman, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, will arrive Friday for three days of talks with Sri Lankan leaders and is expected to visit Kandy where two people were killed in the violence.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the visit was planned before the state of emergency was imposed.

"We are obviously concerned over reports of the ongoing communal violence and we welcome the government's commitment to addressing the tensions and achieve reconciliation," he said.

"We urge all Sri Lankans to resolve their difference through dialogue."

The government said it was imposing the state of emergency after police failed to curb violence in Kandy, where mobs of Sinhalese burned mosques, homes and businesses belonging to Muslims.

Kandy is the latest region to be plagued by religious and ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, a nation of 21 million people.

Last week, mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese, the island's Buddhist majority.

Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

Religious and ethnic violence can turn deadly in Sri Lanka, where Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and Sinhalese make up nearly 75 percent.