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Sri Lanka protests US war crimes remarks

Saturday, 11 January 2014 - 8:31am IST | Agency: PTI

Sri Lanka said today it would protest to the United States over its allegations that army shelling killed hundreds of families during the final days of the island's ethnic civil war.

A senior foreign ministry official said the allegation, made in a US embassy tweet yesterday, would be discussed with visiting Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp.

"Our minister (G. L. Peiris) will take it up face-to-face with ambassador Rapp," the official told AFP, asking not to be named. "It is a baseless allegation. It is uncalled for," he said.

Rapp arrived in Sri Lanka Monday on a five-day visit to meet officials and politicians to discuss Sri Lanka's rights record and attempts at reconciliation five years after the end of war.

The US embassy posted on Twitter a photo of Rapp and its ambassador Michele Sison from the island's former battle zone with the caption: "St Anthany's Ground - site of Jan 2009 killing of hundreds of families by army shelling." US diplomats in Colombo told AFP the tweet reflected Washington's toughening human rights policy towards Sri Lanka.

"This tweet reflects official government stance," an embassy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sri Lanka has denied charges that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by the army during the push that crushed Tamil rebels fighting for a separate homeland.

In other tweets, the embassy said Rapp and Sison also visited a pro-opposition newspaper in Jaffna, the capital of the battle-scarred Northern Province and expressed "concern for media freedom in Sri Lanka."

The two went to the Uthayan newspaper and met its owner, Eswarapatham Saravanapavan, who is an opposition legislator from the Tamil National Alliance party.

Saravanapavan said his paper had been a target of attack and five of his employees have been killed in recent years, but no suspects have been prosecuted.

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry official said Colombo believed the US charges were aimed at laying the ground for renewed condemnation of Sri Lanka at the March UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva.

"The statement could be seen as a justification what they are planning," the official said.

Immediately after the US tweets, Sri Lanka's military added it feared a wider campaign by Washington against Colombo.

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