Dalai Lama Welcomes Sri Lanka Enters 48-hour Halt to Fighting  བོད་སྐད།

The Dalai Lama on Monday expressed hope that the move would offer an opportunity for Sinhalese-Tamil relations to further take a new and more constructive direction.

"It is with great relief that I welcome the truce that has been declared in the Sri Lankan conflict to mark the two-day Sinhala and Tamil New Year holiday," the Dalai Lama said in a statement posted on his official website.

"I pray that this New Year truce may offer an opportunity for Sinhalese-Tamil relations to take a new, more constructive direction," His Holiness added.

Sri Lankan security forces are following the president's call for a two-day cease-fire to give tens of thousands of trapped civilians a chance to leave the fighting.

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered a two-day suspension of military operations against Tamil Tiger rebels Sunday. He asked the army to only carry out operations of "a defensive nature" during the Sri Lankan New Year Monday and Tuesday.

The president said people should be given "uninhibited freedom of movement" from the no-fire zone during the cease-fire, and he urged the Tigers to surrender and renounce violence.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the pause and urged both sides to respect it. He said he would have liked to see a longer halt, but that the government plan was a "useful first step" and an opportunity to move towards a peaceful and orderly end to the fighting.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels. But a pro-Tamil Web site (TamilNet.com) said at least 31 civilians were killed Sunday when the Sri Lankan army shelled the no-fire zone.

It is not possible to independently verify the claims of either side.

Sri Lanka's military says it is on the verge of defeating the rebels, who have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Tibet.NET.