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S.Lankan protest drags on despite appeal from UN chief

[AFP, Saturday, 10 July 2010 13:12 No Comment]

bWe6giuAng A Sri Lankan lawmaker entered the fifth day of a protest outside the main UN compound in Colombo Saturday despite a plea from UN chief Ban Ki-moon for authorities to "normalise conditions".

Former cabinet minister Wimal Weerawansa, who launched a sitdown protest on Tuesday and turned it into a "death fast" on Thursday, kept up his action over a UN war crimes panel that is expected to probe alleged rights abuses in the closing stages of the war between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil rebels.

The leader of the National Freedom Front, a coalition partner in the government, quit his cabinet position as housing minister on Friday to deflect criticism that his campaign was orchestrated by the government.

Weerawansa, who is still an MP, is camping outside the UN compound and refusing food or water, his spokesman Mohamed Musamil said.

"We are told that MP Weerawansa is now suffering from a urine infection and his blood sugar levels are going down," Musamil told AFP. "He is unable to sit up and speak."

Hundreds of supporters had gathered around him as organisers played Buddhist prayers over a public address system.

Ban, who on Thursday recalled the UN’s top envoy to the island, Neil Buhne, on Friday asked Sri Lanka to "normalise conditions" around the UN office in Colombo after days of angry demonstrations to allow the UN’s work to continue.

The UN chief’s office said the "strong reaction" to the UN probe "is not warranted," adding that its panel of experts only had an advisory capacity.

The UN has previously reported that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting last year.

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