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US, Norway deny helping finance Sri Lanka opposition leader

[AFP, Thursday, 11 February 2010 17:55 No Comment]

The United States and Norway rejected on Thursday fresh allegations that they financed the jailed Sri Lankan opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka in his bid to unseat President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The US and Norwegian embassies denied the charge by Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who told the Straits Times of Singapore that the two nations backed Fonseka, the main opposition candidate at last month’s presidential election.

"We are 100 percent convinced that Western countries with vested interests were backing him (Fonseka)," Rajapakse said in remarks published Thursday. "Even the US, and countries like Norway, spent lots of money on his campaign."

Rajapakse, who is also the president’s younger brother, said Norway had been funding journalists to write against the Sri Lankan government.

"We would like to point out that the accusations made against Norway in the interview are not correct," a Norwegian embassy statement said.

"Norway has never and will never interfere with other countries? elections or in any way try to undermine or oust a democratically-elected government," the statement said, adding they had raised the allegation with the Sri Lankan foreign office.

The United States said it denied Rajapakse’s allegations, but wanted Colombo to ensure that opposition activists and journalists were not persecuted by the government.

"As noted in previous US embassy statements, the United States backed no candidate but strongly supported a free, fair, and credible democratic process.

"In that spirit, we now urge the Sri Lankan government to protect the rights of those who supported the opposition or other candidates in the election and to ensure the safety and security of representatives of the press," the US statement said.

A ruling party lawmaker claimed last month he was given a suitcase full of cash to defect and support the main opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka. He said the money came from the US and Norwegian embassies.

[Full Coverage]

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