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Lanka ‘lied to UN over heavy arms’ – AFP

[Gulf Times, Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:45 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s opposition yesterday accused the government of misleading the UN over the use of heavy weapons during the final stages of fighting against Tamil rebels last year.

Sri Lanka is under pressure from the United Nations and Western nations to submit to a war crimes investigation after a host of allegations about the killing of prisoners and the use of weapons.

A top aide to President Mahinda Rajapakse disclosed on Thursday that Colombo ordered a halt to the use of heavy weapons only in April, two months after a UN envoy was promised that such armaments would not be used.

Former foreign minister and key opposition leader Mangala Samaraweera seized on the disclosure by the aide, Lalith Weeratunga, who said the use of heavy weapons was eventually stopped as part of a political deal with the Indian government.

The statement “indicates that despite claims to the contrary, both to the public of this country and to (the) UN … in February 2009, in fact the government had sanctioned the use of heavy weapons until April, when the Indian general election was in full swing,” Samaraweera said in a statement.

Weeratunga said neighbouring India had asked for a complete halt in the offensive because it affected Tamil votes in southern India during national elections last year.

The UN estimates that at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the first four months of last year as Sri Lankan troops moved to finish off the Tigers, who had fought for an independent Tamil homeland since 1972.

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