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. US Marines scale down Sri Lanka relief mission
COLOMBO (AFP) Jan 28, 2005
The United States has begun scaling down its tsunami relief operations and has withdrawn nearly two-thirds of its 1,600 Marines deployed on the island, defence ministry officials said Friday.

The United States has had one fixed-wing aircraft and four helicopters on the island since the departure last week of landing craft, the USS Duluth, along with heavy equipment used in initial clearing operations after the December 26 disaster, officials said.

"About two-thirds of the Marines have already left and they are likely to complete a withdrawal ... within a week," said a defence official who declined to be identified.

There was no immediate reaction from the US embassy here, but a spokeswoman said they had arranged a media briefing Saturday on US relief operations in Sri Lanka.

US troops are deployed at Sri Lanka's only international airport, in Colombo, and at the southern port district of Galle. A small contingent of doctors are in the northernmost Point Pedro area.

US deputy secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz told reporters here last week that the troops would not stay any longer than necessary.

India and Pakistan have also scaled down their military relief operations in Sri Lanka where at least 30,957 people were killed in the December 26 tsunami.

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