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Sri Lanka seeks ‘new era’ in foreign relations

[AFP, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 07:31 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s president called for a "new era" in foreign relations as the island staged a military parade to mark its victory over Tamil Tiger rebels.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, whose government has been threatened with a possible war crimes probe over the manner of its military success, said it was time to launch a fresh diplomatic strategy.

"It is necessary to begin a new era in our international relations to safeguard my motherland," the president said in a nationally televised speech just before the military parade.

"Having won our freedom in our motherland, we must now establish our freedom and sovereignty internationally."

He also thanked unnamed governments for helping Sri Lanka in its battle against Tamil Tiger rebels whose leadership was wiped out two weeks ago ending one of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflicts.

Sri Lanka’s former colonial ruler, Britain, has been leading calls for war crimes investigations amid charges that both government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels violated international humanitarian laws.

Sri Lanka has denied shelling populated areas in its battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and has labelled its military action as the world’s largest hostage rescue.

The Colombo government as well as the United Nations accused the Tigers of using tens of thousands of civilians as a human shield.

Wednesday’s triumphal parade along Colombo’s sea-front Galle Face promenade was organised to mark the "defeat of terrorism."

President Rajapakse said more than 24,000 security personnel were killed in the decades-long conflict while another 5,000 had been disabled.

The Galle Face area had been declared off limits for traffic since Monday.

[Full Coverage]

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