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Orphan-Selling In Sri Lanka?

As the massive effort goes forward to help tsunami survivors, bury bodies, and restore order, authorities are on guard against problems which could worsen: the welfare of orphans and in some places, tension with rebel groups.

In Sri Lanka Wednesday, police announced the arrest of a 60-year-old man picked up after authorities received a tip that he might have been involved in the alleged sale of tsunami orphans.

The fate of the children - ages 12 and 13 - said to have been sold is not clear. The suspect has been released on bail.

The suspect has been released on bail.

Large numbers of children were orphaned by the tsunami and the United Nations and international aid groups have indicated their concern that child traffickers could take advantage of the disaster and try to sell orphans into forced labor or the sex trade.

In Indonesia, U.S. Marines have expanded their role in Sumatra's tsunami relief operation after days of delays officials said were caused by Indonesian objections to armed U.S. troops and the setting up of a base camp on shore.

In a major compromise, the Marines agreed not to carry guns while on Indonesian soil and for the vast majority of troops to return to ships stationed off the coast after each day's operations.

Marines flew a French medical team to the shattered city of Calang by helicopter Wednesday and delivered supplies to Indonesian troops in Meulaboh, to the south. Navy crews based on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln have flown hundreds of relief missions in the past two weeks.

Like the Marines, the Navy crews carry no weapons and have no land base.

Intensive negotiations opened the way for expansion of helicopter relief operations and for the first batch of Marines to come ashore by hovercraft in Meulaboh on Monday.

"At first we were sent to known airfields," helicopter pilot Capt. David Shealy said Wednesday. "Now we are doing targets of opportunity, looking for small groups of people who are isolated and need help."

The Marines, diverted here from duty in Iraq, have scaled back their plans to send hundreds of troops ashore to build roads and clear rubble. Col. Tom Greenwood, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said earlier this week that they would instead keep only a "minimal footprint," with most returning to their ship at night instead of establishing a camp ashore.

The bulk of the Marines' mission has become ferrying aid workers and transporting food from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

Hundreds of from troops from Australia, Singapore, Germany and other nations are also helping in the relief mission. The Indonesian military is providing security for all of them.

Much of the devastation is in Aceh province, where separatist rebels have fought government forces for decades. Both sides say they won't fight during the tsunami emergency, although the military has warned aid workers that some regions are not safe.

Indonesian officials as a result are now warning foreign aid workers and journalists that because of security concerns, they could be expelled unless they inform the government of any travel outside the capital of tsunami-battered Aceh province.

Asked if those who failed to register with the government before traveling outside the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, would be expelled, Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab said: "I think that is one possibility."

The rules on travel announced Wednesday follow sporadic shootings in Aceh that the military has blamed on separatist rebels, though it has provided no evidence to back up those claims. No aid workers have been injured in the gunfire.

Indonesia's chief of relief operations, Budi Atmaji, says the government is not trying to restrict travel.

"The purpose of this arrangement,"said Atmaji, "is not to restrict access but to coordinate the activities of all organizations in order to reduce overlapping efforts, to provide a map of operations already underway and assist in planning future operations."

Before Wednesday's statement was released, Kevin Kennedy, a senior official in the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in New York that Indonesia was cooperating well with aid workers and had only asked to be kept informed of their identities and whereabouts.

"In no way has it impacted or diminished our ability to move about or to access populations. In fact it's rather standard practice," he said.

Shihab also claimed that suspected rebels had briefly kidnapped a senior Indonesian health official on the outskirts of Banda Aceh. A passing military vehicle then exchanged gunfire with the rebels and the man managed to escape, he added.

"This is not an orchestrated scenario," he said. "This is a real scenario. It happened four or five days after (the) disaster."

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